Embracing hope through action

Today is the 6th anniversary of the shooting that shocked and rocked the country. Never before Dec. 14th 2012 had an unhinged shooter carried weapons meant for war and massacres to an elementary school and opened fire indiscriminately on innocent 6 and 7 year olds and 6 adults, massacring their young bodies. Never before. But not never again. Since the massacre 6 years ago, 600,000 Americans have been shot. Of those, over a third died of their gunshot injuries. 

We had hope back then that this heinous shooting would at long last, loosen the grip the corporate gun lobby had on our nation’s elected leaders and actually allow stronger gun laws to pass. But we were woefully and tragically wrong. There was a bi-partisan bill. There was hope.

Even Blue Dog Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, an avid gun owner and NRA politician, cried in his office when the Sandy Hook parents came to him with their pleas to do something. It was a raw moment. It was public. 

We had hope. Even the grief and tears of the parents of the 6 and 7 year olds so soon after the shooting was not enough for the lapdog politicians in thrall with the second amendment. 

We had hope. Hope was not enough. 

Yesterday at our local 6th annual vigil in memory of the Sandy Hook and other gun violence victims a pastor quoted these words

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

We are angry at the way things are. We have had hope shattered too many times. Which mass shooting will be enough for our leaders? How many victims shot all at once in rapid succession with a mad man holding weapons meant for war would it take? How many………….?

The title of our local vigil was “Embracing Hope Through Action”. Speakers talked about past efforts and present situations. The last speaker was a student at our local university who helped organize our local March For Our Lives chapter. She is an emerging leader who gave us hope because the students have had the courage to step up and look up, as she said. They have nothing to lose. They taught the adults how to do this.

And so it took a group of vocal and determined older high school students, not willing to sit down and shut up after their friends were shot at another shooting that shocked and rocked the nation last Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida, to affect change. 

There is common sense after all. Even Florida, the state owned by the NRA, passed stronger gun laws after the Parkland students insisted- no demanded- in very loud voices. Over 1 million people marched in over 700 marches nation-wide on March 24th last year. Students walked out of their schools in moving 17 minutes of actions and silence in memory of the 17 shot at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The tiny survivors of Sandy Hook elementary school couldn’t make demands. For one thing, they were all traumatized by what had occurred and seeing the bloody bodies of their friends and classmates. They still are. The parents were traumatized and so many felt relief that their child was not one of the bullet ridden bodies left lying on the floors of a building no longer in existence. 

But the memories were not erased by the demolition of the building that was once a happy place of learning. They live on. 

We remember them today and always. We are still angry that our leaders couldn’t have the courage to do the right thing after what happened 6 years ago today.

But we still have hope. That is what allows us to get on and do the hard work of advocacy on behalf of our loved ones. 

This is a “no brainer”. Why should it be so hard? It should be easy. 

And it shouldn’t take courage to make noise and stand up for what we know well over 90% of Americans support. It takes resolve and doing the right thing.

The winds of change are blowing. Our young people are the hope. Our young people have courage. They are showing us how to do this. They have taken on conventional wisdom and attacked those who have stood in the way of the common sense and doing what is morally and lawfully right. 

The 2018 election saw NRA “A” rated candidates and sitting Congress members go down to defeat to candidates who embraced gun safety reform. 

There is hope.

We can and will do this in the names of the victims and survivors. 

Today we remember:

from CNN.com

Anniversaries

Photo in Google photos and provided by Yoko Ono

It’s becoming more and more difficult to remember gun violence victims on the anniversaries of their deaths. There are so many that there is hardly one day in a calendar without a notation about a mass shooting, the shooting of a loved one, or the shooting of a person known to all because of their fame. There is, of course, the anniversaries of the shootings of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Every year, we think about them and their legacies on the day of their death by bullets. 

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of Beatles singer John Lennon.

The much loved Lennon was shot and killed outside of his home in New York City:

Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in the archway of the Dakota, his residence in New York City. Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.
After sustaining four major gunshot wounds, Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

From the above linked Wikipedia article:

Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Lynn at 11:15 p.m.,[29] but the time of 11:07 p.m. has also been reported.[30] The surgeon noted—as did other witnesses—that a Beatles song (“All My Loving“) came over the hospital’s sound system at the moment Lennon was pronounced dead.[31] Lennon’s body was then taken to the city morgue at 520 First Avenue for an autopsy. The cause of death was reported on his death certificate as “hypovolemic shock, caused by the loss of more than 80% of blood volume due to multiple through-and-through gunshot wounds to the left shoulder and left chest resulting in damage to the left lung, the left subclavian artery, the aorta and aortic arch“. The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Lennon also stated in his report that even with prompt medical treatment, no person could have lived for more than a few minutes with such multiple bullet injuries to all of the major arteries and veins around the heart.[32]

An article was posted recently  about whether we should be able to see photos of the deadly wounds caused by bullets. 

I chose not to see the damage done to my sister’s body after her shooting. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful woman she was in life. But perhaps showing the damage would bring the message home to those who are much too cavalier about gun violence and don’t seem to get the devastation to families when a loved one is suddenly and violently murdered.

From the above linked article:

I think that gun control has now become as emotionally charged and intractable as civil rights and the Vietnam War once were. The American College of Physicians was joined in 2015 by nearly 60 other organizations, including the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association, in a call to address gun violence as a public-health threat. Last month, in Annals of Internal Medicine, the physicians’ group issued a position paper with recommendations for reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths. The National Rifle Association responded with a tweet that read, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control.”
The NRA was exaggerating, but that edition of the journal did contain several articles, letters and editorials on gun control. Doctors, who have seen the carnage, want it stopped. I have little doubt that most of the rest of us would react the same way. Daniel Wasserman, the head rabbi of a Pittsburgh synagogue that neighbors the Tree of Life Congregation where 11 people were massacred by a virulently anti-Semitic gunman in October, told a New York Times writer that “unless someone is a soldier in a war zone, I defy anyone to tell me they’ve seen what I just saw.” We should see what he saw. Wasserman went on to say that he knew who one victim was because he recognized the hair on a piece of skull. We should see that too.

My brother served in Viet Nam. He is haunted yet today by what he saw there and suffers from PTSD along with Parkinson’s Disease and many other diagnoses. My sister was abruptly taken from my life by bullets. My brother has been slowly taken from me because of a war that occurred many years ago and the nightmares he has suffered ever since. 

I write this because the iconic image of the blood stained glasses of John Lennon and the description of his injuries should be enough for us to stand up and cry for common sense. But that has never been #enough for us. In America, the also iconic symbol of resistance to any measures that can save lives, the NRA, has for too long now commanded the narrative that has resulted in lapdog politicians, afraid to stand with the majority of Americans. 

As a new majority in the U.S House of Representatives takes control in January, they have a chance to do what over 90% of Americans want to have happen. Will those who have resisted all of these years follow an organization that has been exposed for it’s possible illegal influence over our last election? Will those who have received a lot of money from the NRA and a coveted “A” rating from the organization understand that the organization could be failing and will lose its’ influence over our elections and our elected leaders? Will Congress understand going forward that “A” rated candidates lost to “F” rated candidates? 

We can hope. But more than that, we can demand the change we deserve and want in the name of the victims of gun violence. Next week will mark the 6th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting- the one that should have resulted in change, at long last. But it didn’t. Shame on us all for letting so many anniversaries of that shooting go by without making change happen. It took outspoken high school students who survived a school shooting on Valentine’s Day of 2018 to shake up the system and take on the organization that doesn’t want us to see those blood stained glasses or the heinous and devastating injuries to the bodies of our loved ones. Things might change in a hurry if we did.

If one can imagine their own loved one with those same injuries and the pain and suffering that came with them, perhaps they would demand the change so we can stop our vigils and remembrances on shooting anniversaries.

Imagine:

A place at the table

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. We are at our cabin for a family Thanksgiving and we will enjoy sliding, hiking in the snow, snowshoeing and just hanging out as a family. It’s long time since the shooting death of my sister. We think of her at holiday times knowing that there will be a place for her in our hearts but not at our table. It has become the new normal for her grown kids and their children to have Thanksgiving without her.

But we are all thankful for our full and happy lives in spite of her being missing from the table.

Many victims and survivors will be having a sad Thanksgiving this year because a loved one was shot and killed. The latest mass shooting ( it’s ridiculous that we even have to mention the latest mass shooting) in Thousand Oaks, CA has left 13 families and many friends without a person who they expected to be at their Thanksgiving table. And to add literal insult to injury, many had to evacuate the area because of the wild fires:

Throughout the day, I drove all over the region talking to the gunman’s neighbors and to survivors, including some who had already survived a previous mass shooting. It was the second mass shooting I had reported on within the span of three weeks. And once again it was a huge story, with around-the-clock television coverage. (…)  Then, just after 3 a.m., I awoke to a voice on a gurgly loudspeaker: “We are under mandatory evacuation orders. Please collect your bags and exit immediately.” (…) It took several minutes for me to realize I had been in the same parking lot earlier that day, looking for loved ones of those who died at the Borderline Bar. Few there wanted to speak with me. As one worker put it, “It really can’t get much worse.”
An hour or so later, it did. As I drove down the 101 Freeway, flames were easily visible from both sides. Thousands of people were evacuated from Thousand Oaks, including those who had survived the shooting the night before. It was even worse in the northern part of the state, where an inferno trapped people trying to escape in their cars, likely killing hundreds.

Should not a mass shooting be enough for one area to experience? The trauma to so many people will cause them pain and suffering for many years. 

And our President has done nothing to help heal the area with his crass and insensitive remarks about the devastation from the fire by trying to blame those affected. The idea that raking the “floor of the forest” would have prevented the fires is both ridiculous and preposterous and has been roundly criticized by Americans and Finns. ( Using the Finnish President as his foil, he claimed that he told him (Trump) that they take care of their forests by raking the floors of the forest- and then called it forestation as if he knew exactly what that meant. There are really no words for this debacle,

The Finns have a sense of humor at least and saw this disturbing behavior for what it was. Take a look at the photos and tweets from some of them.

In addition, along the lines of nonsensical comments from Trump,  I’m sure he would have claimed that if only one of those students had been armed while dancing and enjoying themselves at a local bar this tragedy could have been averted. I’m sure he knew that the first 2 victims were security guards? 

Soon after the Thousand Oaks shooting, a man decided to shoot up a Yoga studio where innocent women were shot and killed:

According to police, Scott Paul Beierle, 40, walked into Hot Yoga Tallahassee on Friday evening and opened fire, killing two people and wounding five others before turning the gun on himself. (…) According to The New York Times, Beierle was sympathetic toward Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and wounded 14 others in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Rodger had written a manifesto in which he lamented his virginity, which he blamed on the “cruelness of women.”
Beierle said that as an adolescent he could relate to “this endless wasteland that breeds this longing and this frustration,” The New York Times reported.
He recounted a string of instances in which he was personally rejected.

He shot himself as well. He was able to get a gun easily because that’s the way it is in America. Guns=shootings.

And then after that a domestic dispute ended in a mass shooting at Chicago area hospital killing the intended victim, an Emergency Room physician and others.  

And then after that there were several shootings in Minnesota of a pregnant woman and a Pokemon Go player minding their own business.

And after that 1 was shot dead and 4 injured in downtown Denver.

And then there is a new (Neo-Nazi) video game that allows players to kill GLBTQ people:

As reported by the Angry White Men blog, one of the game’s levels involves shooting people inside a gay club called “LGBTQ+ Agenda HQ.” The action is strongly reminiscent of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, in June 2016 when 49 people were killed.
Another mission involves killing journalists inside the offices of the “Fake News Network,” a reference to the term Trump uses to attack media organizations such as CNN. The New York offices of CNN were recently sent a pipe bomb as part of an alleged plot targeting Trump critics and key Democrat figures, including former president Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hilary Clinton.

Disgusting and frightening. Is this the America we deserve?

You can’t make these scenarios up.

After the recent mass shooting, and particularly the Thousand Oaks shooting, the CEO of the Toms shoe company decided to have a seat at the table of gun safety reform. In an appearance with Jimmy Fallon he announced that he would be contributing millions to organizations working on gun violence prevention. 

Notice the emotion about the Thousand Oaks shooting shown by Blake Mycoskie when he realized that this latest of our nation’s mass shootings was too close for comfort.

Here’s the thing. Shootings are happening everywhere at anytime. No one is safe. More guns is not the answer. That is clear because the number of victims of gun violence is rising, not decreasing. Americans are waking up to the reality of our gun culture. It’s not a culture. It’s tyranny according to the author (Jack Holmes) of this piece:


This is the America we have made for ourselves. You can survive one mass shooting—an unprecedented atrocity which left 59 dead and 527 wounded—only to find yourself the victim in another one because you chose the wrong bar on the wrong night to go dancing with your friends. If you’re an American, you can be shot anywhere: at school, at the mall, at a concert, at the movie theater. To be an American is to know that when you venture outside, you have a better chance than the citizen of any other country in the developed world of being shot by a complete and total stranger with easy access to incredibly powerful weaponry. (…) That’s why the response from the NRA and their Republican allies after every mass shooting is that no measure that would restrict the number of guns sold will work. Nothing that would deem certain citizens unworthy of gun ownership—a history of violence, worrying signs of mental illness—can be made disqualifying by an act of Congress. The only solution, they tell us, is more guns. We should arm teachers. We should have armed guards. We should all be armed, even in bars. Did you notice all these solutions lead to gun manufacturers selling more guns? The desired outcome is a relentlessly militarized society, where every citizen must be armed at all times to ensure their own safety, and you can shoot someone who scares you in the supermarket parking lot. (…) Should the women at that Tallahassee yoga studio have been strapped while they assumed the Downward Dog? Should the college kids at the Thousand Oaks’ Borderline Bar & Grill have all brought their own weapons, pawing at the safety while they danced to Jason Aldean, waiting for the would-be mass murderer to enter so…everyone could shoot through the packed crowd back at him? After the Texas shooting, gun fanatics held up the case of two men who confronted the shooter outside with AR-15s of their own as evidence that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This was held up as a positive scenario, of America’s Gun Culture Working: that a man with a history of violence shot 26 people to death in the pews of a church, but that two other guys with guns stopped him killing even more. (…) No, like all the great American marketing tactics, it’s rooted in breathless deception. The gun is no antidote to the fear. The gun is the fear. Its proponents hold it up as the last line of defense against a tyrannical government. Never mind that even an AR-15 won’t be much use against a dedicated military force equipped with tanks and Predator drones. It is a fantasy peddled by people who spend their whole lives trumpeting their love of freedom, and hold it up as the only legitimate value in a democracy. A world where everyone could be out to get you, and you can’t leave your house unarmed, is not a free world. It is tyranny.

This is what we have become. A country where regular mass shootings shock us into tears and immobility to do anything. But this is not true. We can do something and we will. More and more people are asking for a seat at the table. Corporations, health care providers, students, educators, gun owners, people of color, GLBTQ Americans, religious organizations, faith leaders, victims. We are all in this together. Shootings are #inour lane

The name of my blog is commongunsense for a reason. Common sense will prevail. When those who agree that stronger gun laws and changing the conversation about guns and gun violence away from what has been the corporate gun lobby led narrative join the table, we can and will save lives. That is the bottom line. That is what this is all about.

Too many families are missing loved ones at their Thanksgiving tables. They should be at the table but suddenly and violently they were killed. Others will unfortunately join the club of victims and survivors. 

Moving forward, we must demand that our lapdog politicians join the table and the conversation. We must make sure that all have a seat at the table if they truly care about our public health epidemic.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and join us at the table. We know that shootings will not take a holiday but I hope for safety for your families.

Domestic terror attacks

Extremism - Word on Red Puzzles.In the last few weeks it is becoming more and more obvious that the terror in America is coming from far right extremists. It was already obvious to most of us but as the bodies pile up, we have to call BS and talk truth.

There’s been another shooting. (Yawn) The bodies have barely been laid to rest from the last one at Tree of Life Synagogue and now 2 more. A far right Tallahassee ( Florida again) man decided to shoot up a Yoga studio. That makes just one more place where people who shouldn’t have guns can get them and shoot people going about their every day business.

From the article:

The man who shot dead two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday before killing himself was a far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs.

Surprised? Not me. It’s a pattern. White men with what appear to be identity problems and far right views who seem to hate women, Jews, Black people, Muslims, and immigrants want to actually kill them because………

When the President of the United States continues his daily and almost hourly diatribes and hate speech at political rallies designed to foment hate and fear, what can we expect?

There’s a list of shootings like this. Only some are listed below.

Charleston church shooting- because they were black…

Sikh Temple shooting- because they were Hindu….

Shooting of 2 black men in Kentucky because they were black….

Pulse Nightclub shooting just because apparently. The shooter wanted to go to DisneyWorld but decided on a gay Latino bar…..

Las Vegas shooting for whatever reason…..

………………….

I left this post for a while because of the elections and came back to have to write about the latest mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA. 12 are dead. The shooter was a white man- a “good guy” with a gun. He was not a prohibited purchaser. Though he had some apparent problems with mental health, he was able to purchase a gun. There are Extreme Risk Protection Orders in California but they are only as good as the education of the public who need to know they can use them.

Really, this is domestic terrorism. I have seen enough interviews with survivors who have cried and just can’t believe they survived. They are terrorized and will likely suffer from PTSD.

It the skin color of these terrorists had been brown or black, we would be having a different conversation. If they were Muslim or from the Middle East we would be talking terrorism.

We must call this as it is- terrorism. It is white guys with guns. These are the invaders. The corporate gun lobby extremists have invaded our country and we are terrorized.:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from gun deaths in 2016 (38,658) than from prescription opioids (around 14,400). And 13,686 of the people killed by guns that year were under the age of 19. Even if you believe in the premise of self-protection or “haters gonna hate, thugs gonna thug,” when you extract the criminal element from total gun deaths, 495 of those deaths were unintentional, and another 22,938 were suicides.

The grand total of U.S. deaths from terrorism and extremist activities over the last decade is 71.

In fact, if you added up the numbers of every American casualty of terrorism since 1865, the numbers of gun deaths in 2016 alone would dwarf it.

Let’s call this what it is:

The NRA’s crusade against gun reform has nothing to do with the will of the people. It is an ideological war that kills and injures thousands of innocent people every year. It is based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Second Amendment not shared by the American people.

This is, unfortunately, America. It doesn’t have to be this way but here we are again.

From the Brady Campaign about the Thousand Oaks shooting:

“Waking up to news of a mass shooting is becoming frighteningly close to a daily occurrence in America. We mourn the deaths of the 12 people murdered and what some are reporting as another 12 injured, and yet we know there is so much more we could do to prevent these tragedies. This should have been a night for college students to enjoy themselves, but instead the Ventura County community is left broken and grieving. From synagogues to yoga studios to schools to dance halls, as long as gaps in our federal gun laws remain, every single one of us is vulnerable. Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and we need comprehensive solutions. We have to pass stronger laws, and we have to enforce the ones we have. We cannot wait for the next House of Representatives to take office – we expect and demand that Congress enact Brady’s three-point plan to take meaningful action to end these mass shootings. We don’t have a moment to wait.”

There will be a new Congress- a Democratic House. Expect gun safety reform laws to be on the agenda. When lapdog Republicans and maybe some scared Democrats vote against what the majority wants, they will be held accountable. We are not willing to let politicians get away with this any longer. There have been 307 mass shootings and it’s the 312th day of the year according to the Gun Violence Archive.

This is insanity itself.

Where is common sense?

(More on the recent elections soon)

Kaddish- for the mourners

vigilOn Monday of this week, I attended a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. 150-200 people attended on a cold fall day and crowded into a small gathering place on a busy street corner in Duluth. There were chants and songs and prayers along with speeches from local community leaders. I spoke as a person whose sister was murdered by bullets. Our Mayor spoke and my minister as well as a local elder from the NAACP. Many from the local Jewish community were there as well and expressed such sadness and mourning for the anti-Semitic attack on their brothers and sisters of faith.

It has been 26 years since my sister was shot. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday. The memories come and go as does the pain and the grief. I don’t cry much any more when speaking. But when the leader of the Synagogue asked us to sing and pray Kaddish for the dead and told us to think of our own losses, I cried. That moment was so emotional and powerful and almost haunting.

The vigil was testament to the solidarity we all feel when attacks come against one group of people because of anti-Semitism or racism or anti-GLBTQ or anti-abortion, or anti-Christianity or just because.

Following on the heels of the pipe bomb threats to high profile Democrats it felt like something was terribly wrong.

And predictably, the President said these words after the mass shooting at the synagogue:

When asked if the shooting indicated a need to revisit gun laws, Trump replied that the shooting “has little to do with it” and that an armed guard might have been able to stop the gunman “immediately.”
Asked if he was advocating for armed guards inside of places of worship, Trump replied, “no, it’s certainly an option.”

These are corporate gun lobby words that mean nothing. Rarely has someone who is armed stopped a mass shooting. In this case, the synagogue often did have armed guards as has become necessary for many synagogues in the current atmosphere in our country. But that is different than arming worshipers. If we have to go to our places of worship with guns,  then we have lost our freedom to worship in peace and tranquility.

I did speak with the person at our church in charge of building issues. He told me that we do have an evacuation plan just in case but we haven’t paid a lot of attention to it. I think it’s time to talk about this but it won’t involve weapons.

Something is terribly wrong. There is no way of avoiding the obvious. Hatred and fear of the “other” is increasing in intensity and promoted by hate groups and some of our very own leaders. The President is at the top of the heap of this fear. At the moment, in a ploy to drive his base to the polls, he has dangerously and cynically decided to issue an unconstitutional order to deny citizenship based on birth rites. The country awaits the fall-out from this ludicrous idea.

On top of that the President said on national TV that he intends to deploy 10,000-15,000 troops to our border to stop the “invasion”, as he has pronounced it, from the south. Thousands of refugees are peacefully walking towards the Mexican border from Honduras where they are afraid to live in their own country.

The Honduran migrants headed northward as part of a massive caravan are fleeing for different reasons — rank poverty, gang threats and a globalized economy that left them behind. They’re so desperate, they told me, they’re willing to gamble on a dangerous trip.

It is families with children and people of all ages and yet, the President claims these poor people are gang members and criminals and maybe a few Middle Easterners thrown in for good measure to frighten us all to death.

I am daily horrified and disgusted by this anger and fear. It should not be this way. I may be naive but I really do believe that we are better than this. Any common sense about this kind of rhetoric has flown away into thin air. We need it back.

Can we get our nation back? Can we have a calm and peaceful national conversation about any of this? As the election grows closer, the rhetoric grows more and more coarse. The ghouls of Halloween are with us every day now.

We should be praying and singing Kaddish for our country. My friend, Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, has written this piece for City Pages:

Our kids know anti-Semitism is real and it concerns them. They see it through the lens of understanding police brutality against unarmed African American men, the attacks on trans people and Muslims and Native People and Latinx and migrants and those with disabilities. They recognize that none of us are free until all of us are free.

They know in their bones that the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh was absolutely an attack on the Jewish people—and was the same attack on the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Our children know that unless and until we address bigotry and racism and hatred for all, none of us will be safe. (…) We—all of us—need one another. We are facing mighty waves of bigotry and violence, intolerance and cynicism. The way we will make it to shore—the way we will survive and thrive and build a community worthy of our children’s dreams—is to hold on to one another and swim to the shore, together.

We need each other and we also need a leader who can bring us together in these moments of violence and upheaval. We don’t have that leader. Who will do this? Who will fix this? When will it stop?

When will they ever learn?

When I spoke on Monday I read the words of former President Barack Obama which got to the core of the matter:

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 2.05.04 PM

Amen.

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.