Gun laws in Arizona and Utah

I could write about so many things given the current situation. By that I mean the continuing carnage like the death of a young St. Paul man who was trying to get a gun away from a domestic abuser to protect his cousin. But oh well, these happen every day. No big deal.

Or I could write about going to the Westminster Town Hall Forum on Tuesday to hear Parkland student David Hogg speak. I will just say that it was a happening. These forums are quite famous and held in a beautiful church in downtown Minneapolis. Hogg was very warmly and enthusiastically received getting 3 standing ovations. He spoke with clarity and passion.

Or I could write about how Congressman Steve King predicted violence between red and blue states- like a Civil War.

Or I could write about the news that New Zealand has banned semi-automatic rifles from sale and eventually possession just six days after the massacre that killed 50 people in Christchurch.

Commonsense never seen in America.

Or I could write about the Minnesota man, armed with 2 stolen guns ( from friends) terrorized his ex girlfriend claiming he was going to take people to hell. Luckily no one is dead but an officer was injured in a scuffle with the man.

Yes. This happened. Lock up those guns. Don’t let friends use your guns.

Or I could write about a conversation I had with a local Republican when I was seeking more information about an upcoming fundraiser for my Congressman where a gun raffle will be part of the fundraiser. When I asked what type of gun would be raffled he said it is usually an AR-15 but not sure this time. He also admitted that whoever won the raffle would be required to undergo a background check. Good news and bad news. This was announced on the same day as the New Zealand massacre.

So we continued our “conversation” when the man got defensive and started in on all kinds of NRA myths about background checks including that they would lead to registration. And that is was mentally ill people who committed the mass shootings. That the Nazis took guns from the Jews because of registration. That the guns used by the Mexican cartel were coming into our country from Mexico. That there are lots of gun dealers in Mexico despite my telling him that there were not- there is only one gun dealer in Mexico and most of the guns come from the U.S. And finally that the NRA got the original Brady background check bill passed.

It was a frustrating conversation based on his total denial of the facts and his insistence that guns would be registered and confiscated if we extend the very same Brady background checks to private gun sales. At least he admitted he didn’t want domestic abusers and adjudicated mentally ill people to have guns but then didn’t seem to think it was a good idea to make sure they didn’t get their guns by requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Sigh.

But instead I am going to write about gun laws in 2 states I am going to visit in a few days. I have done this many times before when traveling. We will be taking a family trip to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Zion National Park.

So let’s take a look at Arizona where we are going first. Giffords Law Center has this report about the gun laws in Arizona:

In 2016, Arizona had the 16th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. In addition, based on 2016 Firearms Trace Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Arizona had the 9th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states – meaning that crime guns originally sold in Arizona were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 9th highest rate among the states. Arizona exports crime guns at a rate that is more than double the national average, and more than double the rate at which it imports crime guns from other states.

Famously of course, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and seriously injured at a Tucson Congress on Your Corner event. The shooter did not have to get a permit to carry his gun (because it is not required in Arizona) and ammunition that fateful day when 6 people were killed by bullets. He shouldn’t have had a gun. Enough said.

Utah- the state that provides gun carry permits to many people from other states. Seems like a fine idea, right? One can pass a test on-line without even touching a gun or going to Utah and be able to carry a gun in states all over the country:

Fifteen years after the Utah Legislature loosened rules on concealed firearm permits by waiving residency and other requirements, the state is increasingly attracting firearm owners from throughout the country. Nearly half of the 241,811 permits granted by the state are now held by nonresidents, according to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, which administers the permits. (…) Another source of contention is that the class does not require any actual shooting. One could conceivably obtain a Utah permit without ever having fired a gun. Nevada
 and New Mexico
 recently stopped honoring Utah permits because the class does not meet its live-fire requirements.
“Residents of other states should be aware that people who have a Utah concealed-weapon permit may not have actually fired a weapon,” said Dee Rowland, chairwoman of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah. “I think that would be quite shocking to members of the public.”

Utah has the 24th highest rate of gun deaths in the country.

Remember when Utah decided to allow teachers to carry guns in schools ( one of the few states that do) and shortly after the law passed a teacher’s gun fired while she was in the bathroom at her school, injuring only herself ( luckily). I do.

Sigh.

So off we go on our trip. I am looking forward to seeing this beautiful section of our country. Spring is just beginning in Minnesota with snow still on the ground. Maybe when I get back, the snow will be gone. Wishful thinking but hopeful. I would like to say the same about our own Congress and my state legislature having the will to pass laws that over 90% of Americans and Minnesotans want. Time will tell.

By Diliff – taken by Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=305224

Dangerous times

It took me a while to calm down after I heard about the woman ( Shannon Lee Goessling) our President has nominated for appointment to the Office of the Violence Against Women. It’s upside down world ever since President Trump was elected. His appointees typically are not qualified to hold the positions they hold or to which they have been appointed. Ms. Goessling is absolutely wrong for the job. And my readers may remember that my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting where a gun would have done her no good at all.

Is this payback to the NRA for their funding of his election to the presidency? Just asking.

Brady has issued a statement opposing the nominee:

While working as counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm with a record of advocating for extreme gun rights, Goessling wrote an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Hellerarguing that women in domestic violence situations should arm themselves against their abusers, relying on research that was more than 30 years old. Following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, Goessling told a Florida House panel that “my best friend is my Glock” as she waved her concealed weapons permit and NRA membership card in the air. Goessling also filed an amicus brief opposing same-sex marriages, and the foundation took on multiple cases for groups and businesses targeting immigrants and other Americans who speak a language other than English.

It’s dangerous for women when guns are in the home or even when they have their own gun for self protection. This, of course, is the opposite of what the gun lobby claims. They are wrong. Also from the Brady statement- about women and guns:

When there is a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence, there is a 500 percent higher chance that a woman will be murdered.
In 2016, one out of every three women murdered was killed by an intimate partner with a gun.
Women who were killed by a spouse, intimate partner, or a close relative were seven times more likely to have lived in homes with guns.
2015 study found that “there is no clear evidence that in the hands of victims, firearms are protective,” and recommended instead prohibited abusers from accessing guns.
The LGBTQ+ community reports high levels of intimate partner violence, and African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than white women.

These are facts supported by research. Appointing someone who does not regard the facts and, in fact, will act against common sense and known facts about violence against women is appalling. This is the opposite of what is needed to keep women safe from violence. I urge the President to retract this nomination.

I want to move from violence against women to violence against Muslims and others not like us. The horrendous, tragic and heart wrenching shooting and deaths of 49 innocent people in New Zealand is now the topic of conversation in the media.

It’s worth discussing the influence of our own country’s culture on what is going on in other countries. This article highlights the manifesto left by the shooter before the shooting and the apparent influence of American hate shootings and racism on his actions far away from America:

Portions of the ghastly attack at the downtown mosque were broadcast live on social media by a man who police confirmed had also released a manifesto railing against Muslims and immigrants. The 74-page document states that he was following the example of notorious right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. (my edit of name)

The manifesto, littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide,” is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.


The digital platforms apparently enlisted in the shooting highlight a distinctly 21st-century dimension of mass gun violence — one sure to put more pressure on social media companies already under scrutiny about how they police their services.

Of course we need to talk about New Zealand’s gun laws here. From the above linked article:

Gun laws in New Zealand are more stringent than they are in the United States, but not as strict as regulations in Australia and much of Europe. In 2017, more than 1.5 million guns were held by civilians in New Zealand, according to a tracking website maintained by the University of Sydney School of Public Health.

New restrictions came into effect, including on military-style semiautomatic weapons, after what was previously the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s modern history. In 1990, 13 people were killed in the seaside town of Aramoana when a resident, David Gray, went on a shooting spree after an argument with a neighbor.


Violent crime is rare in New Zealand, compared to the rest of the world. Murders in the country fell to a 40-year low of 35 in 2017, police said, a rate of seven deaths for every 1 million people.

Another article I found revealed that New Zealand is home to many guns- 1 per every 3 citizens. A license is required to own a gun and carrying one is strictly regulated. Nonetheless people can purchase semi-automatic weapons. Because this shooting happened in a country that has no amendment guaranteeing a right to bear arms, I am guessing that changes are coming. In spite of yesterday’s mass shooting though, “New Zealand also has a low murder rate, with a total of 35 homicides in 2017 — fewer than the number of people who died in Friday’s double mosque attack.”

I am editing this post to include an article about the New Zealand Prime Minister’s determination to strengthen the gun laws, as I predicted would happen:

Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference early on Saturday that she would consider banning semi-automatic firearms altogether after the alleged gunman behind the shootings obtained five guns legally.
“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” said Ardern. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

Ardern said the alleged shooter was found to have used five guns that he appeared to legally own under a “category A” licence obtained in November 2017. He appeared to have begun buying guns the following month, she said.
The guns taken from the alleged perpetrator included two semi-automatic guns and two shotguns, the prime minister said. Answering questions from reporters, Ardern said all options to restrict gun violence would be considered.

The attack was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” according to this article.

America has had so many “darkest days” they are too numerous to count. And what has changed? Nothing. In fact, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to have a hearing on and vote on 2 bills recently passed in the House- HR 8 and HR 1112. We will wait to see if they have the courage to do what everyone knows is the right thing to do.

And speaking of changes coming, the parents of the children massacred in the Sandy Hook shooting won a victory yesterday when a judge determined that the parents of the victims can pursue a lawsuit against Remington:

In the 4-3 ruling, the justices agreed with a lower court judge’s decision to dismiss most of the claims raised by the families, but also found that the sweeping federal protections did not prevent the families from bringing a lawsuit based on wrongful marketing claims. The court ruled that the case can move ahead based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.

There is something cynical and dangerous about the marketing of military style assault weapons. On the one hand, they are marketed as weapons of war designed to enhance one’s manhood and make one much more powerful in combat situations. Are we at war on our streets? I suppose one could answer yes to that question given the daily carnage. But to hype guns as weapons to ready the buyer for combat situations or exhibit their manhood is just plain wrong and dangerous.

But the other side of this nonsensical marketing is that the gun lobby really doesn’t like it when these guns are referred to as military style weapons trying to convince us that they are just “common sporting rifles.” These are glaring attempts to deceive and confuse. We understand that these guns are meant to kill as many people as possible. They are not meant for hunting; so for the gun lobby and gun rights advocates to argue that is just another of their deceptions and lies to get people to buy the guns and try to stop any legislation to ban or regulate certain of these guns. Follow the money.

And I will end where I began- with what the President is doing about violence in America. Yesterday he made a statement that many believe is a call to violence by the man who should be leading us to less violence and peaceful solutions to problems. Stoking anger is disturbing and even more disturbing when it comes right from the top. Trump supporters turn themselves into pretzels trying to defend him. Check out this conversation with one of the President’s leading staffers about the President’s rhetoric:

But Conway wouldn’t do it.  
“You’re just reading into it like you usually do,” she said. “He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.”
Conway also asked for the quote, but when Cuomo tried to read it, she immediately interrupted him.
“Christopher, he didn’t threaten and he’s not threatening violence,” she said, then claimed Cuomo was defending violence. 
“I give up,” Cuomo repeatedly said. 

More deceptions and lies. It’s insanity and confusion and obfuscation and absurd all at once.

We aren’t buying it. Today I went to a community gathering of support for our local Muslim community knowing that they would be grieving the loss of their brothers and sisters killed in the New Zealand mass shooting. They were so grateful that we came with our signs and our flowers. Graciously they invited us inside to join them at their prayer service. It was solemn and a meaningful service about hate crimes and gun violence. The wife of the Imam said in an interview with a local TV station that people should use their guns on animals, not humans. The Imam noted that these types of hate crimes are crimes against all of us no matter what religion. We ought to be able to worship without fear of being gunned down by people who hate us because of our religion, race, gender or sexual preference.

Gun violence affects everyone indiscriminately. But certain mass shootings are crimes against one group of people and done in hate towards that group to foment more hate. They are easy to accomplish when weapons of mass destruction are so readily available.

I say “Disarm Hate”. I say disarm domestic abusers. I say disarm those who shouldn’t have guns. We know who they are. I say disarm the fear mongering and rhetoric coming from the gun lobby that foments ideas and actions that can turn into buying and using deadly weapons to kill other human beings. I say disarm anyone who has hate in their hearts and minds against people not like them.

We are better than this. Join Brady. Join Protect Minnesota. Join other gun violence groups. “Take action, not sides.”

They’re coming for your cows and your guns

By Famartin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27101259

Yes. It’s true. The Democrats ( aka socialists to some) are coming for your cows. That was uttered at the annual CPAC event which always brings out the worst of the conservatives trying to foment the worst fears and paranoia of the attendees.

Several speakers but most notably, former Trump “advisor” and ultra conservative Sebastian Gorka, did it with a flare.

“They want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers,” former White House aide Sebastian Gorka declared at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday. “This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”

Yes. He said that. Red meat for the right. If we think that Stalin had any idea about pick-up trucks or hamburgers, we are dealing in fake news.

Am I missing something? Is there something radical about trying to save our planet for our grandchildren? The majority of scientists agree that climate change is real. Increasing numbers of Americans believe Climate Change is real but just don’t know what to do about it. Is there something radical about making sure all of us have affordable access to health care? Is there something radical about wanting to save lives? Facts are stubborn. It takes years of research and advocacy to change the hearts and minds of the public about issues of major importance to citizens. These are not radical ideas but ideas based on facts and what’s best for us all. I think that is what the founding fathers had in mind. It’s really important to deal in facts when talking about the effects of laws or ideas presented that are not laws such as the Green New Deal.

Speaking of facts and what’s in the best interest of the public writ large, this week was an emotional and satisfying victory for common sense after HR 8 and HR 1112 passed in the U.S House of Representatives. I was in DC for a celebration of the anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law 25 years ago on Feb. 28th. It was great to be in a room full of activists who had and have worked so hard to make sure that all gun sales have background checks. It was a historic week for gun safety reform and public health and safety.

My own Congressman, Pete Stauber, in 2 visits I made with him earlier this week ( one at O’Hare and one in his office on Capitol Hill) had never heard of Armslist.com. That is simply not OK. Because sites like Armslist.com are responsible for selling a pretty good number of firearms, ammunitions and accessories with no background checks. We have no idea if a private seller on the site connects with a felon, domestic abuser or someone who is adjudicated mentally ill and transfers a firearm to that person. The site is one of the problems with our background check system, that if fixed by Congress, would stop this kind of sale from happening.

And yet, the hyperbole and fear shouted out by members of Congress was as if these kinds of sales were not happening. They are. But never mind the facts. When one is endorsed by the NRA and makes promises, as my Congress member has, we can expect them to vote against common sense measures. Don’t be fooled by any language that might seem conciliatory. When we follow the money, the truth is revealed.

The current President of the NRA, the infamous liar Oliver North, claimed at the CPAC conference, that all guns would be confiscated if HR 8 became law.

“Our opponents ought to call themselves the vanguard of the disarm America movement,” North said. “They’re not going to be content to simply ignore the last four words of the Second Amendment, they want to repeal all 27 words and confiscate every firearm in the country.”

Yikes. They’re coming for your guns. Of course there is no basis in fact for that statement and it won’t happen, but never mind the facts. And who is this amorphous “they” who are coming?

Others proclaimed that if the bill became law, law abiding gun owners would go to jail for transferring firearms to family members. This is not in the bill and it is fleshed out in the bill language that family members are exempt from requiring background checks before a transfer but never mind the facts.

I heard from my own Congressman that the cost for background checks would be raised to $500.00 if the bill passed into law. NO. That is nowhere in the language of the bill and will not happen.

Listen up. These are the same background checks that most law abiding gun owners submit to when purchasing their firearms from federally licensed dealers. What’s the fuss? How will law abiding gun owners be affected if private sellers ask them to go through a background check?

They won’t. But never mind the facts.

Equally nonsensical arguments came out of the mouths of Minnesota Representatives of the House Public Safety committee on Wednesday evening at a hearing about HF 8 and HF 9. You would have thought that the sky was falling. Conspiracy theories were uttered. False claims of rights and firearms being taken were issued. Denial that on-line sales without background checks happen at all. ( See Armslist.com)

The bills passed anyway. The tired and false arguments from gun lobby supported elected leaders have been debunked for decades. Nevertheless, they persist. And they try new ones on as bills come forward that they can’t possibly support because….. rights….. money from the NRA…… angry, armed gun rights activists.

As Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action activists gathered for the hearings this week, they wore stickers on their shirts that said “Unarmed and Unafraid”. Indeed. The gun rights activists wore tee shirts that said “shall not be infringed”. They forgot the rest of the second amendment wording- “well regulated militia”.

What is to fear anyway? Women and grandmothers and young men and students wearing orange shirts? The machinations the gun rights folks went through to make sure they could come to the meeting armed to prove some kind of point that eludes most reasonable people was on full display in Minnesota.

We are not coming for your guns. Give it up. Keep them if you are law abiding and be responsible for what happens to them at home and in public. Don’t do what this guy did.  

Ouch to say the least. There are no “accidents” with firearms.

Don’t say what conservative attorney Joseph diGenova said on FOX news:

Speaking to conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, diGenova summed up his best advice to friends: “I vote, and I buy guns. And that’s what you should do.”


Yes, people are stockpiling guns for some kind of war with their own government apparently. Seems like a bad idea to me but whatever. And then sometimes you get caught doing the wrong thing with your stockpile like this Minnesota “law abiding” gun owner and elected county commissioner did:

Among the items found inside Hamer’s shop were: 
3 grams of methamphetamine.
Several pipes commonly used to smoke drugs.
Two scales which tested positive for meth.
Green leafy substance believed to be synthetic marijuana.
55 firearms, including a loaded 9mm pistol.

Guns and drugs often go together but they are a lethal combination and a really bad idea. I wonder what will happen to that stockpile of guns now?

Or don’t say what this Minnesota House member said at a gun rights rally:

“Some days, you feel like the frog in the boiling water. Just exactly how long are they going to just keep notching it up a degree here, and a degree here and a degree here until you’ve had enough? That line is for each of us to decide, each on our own terms,” Republican state representative Cal Bahr said during a Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus rally on Saturday. “There’s a lot of us in this room that have had enough, and it’s time to start riding herd on the rest of these people that want to take your rights away from you. They will not go quietly into the good night. They need to be kicked to the curb and stomped on and run over a few times,” he added, drawing cheers from the crowd. 
He then invoked Paul Revere and the American revolution in his closing remarks. 

Yep. I am one of those opponents of his perceived rights that Representative Bahr wants to kick to the curb and get stomped on and run over. Don’t say those things in defense of gun rights and carrying loaded guns around in public.

Don’t let your young child get a gun and do this.

The brothers were playing with a loaded handgun at their Pahokee apartment in Fremd Village, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, WPTV5 reported Wednesday evening.
The older brother, age 7, was apparently accidentally shot by his younger brother.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Just “google” child shoots sibling with gun and see the long list. You can do it by state or in general. It’s stunning how many irresponsible gun owners don’t understand the risk of guns in their homes. Perhaps they should be introduced to EndFamilyFire.

Don’t use your gun in a moment of anger and shoot your partner or someone else or threaten someone or get mad when a dog urinates on you.

Don’t do that with your gun. Be safe and responsible. That’s all we ask. If you want to keep your firearms and your rights, stay law abiding. It is only those who aren’t who will lose their rights and possibly their firearms. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or people. They should be sold only to people who will use them legally and are law abiding.

And people like the shooter at the Aurora, Illinois workplace should not have guns. He slipped through the cracks. All we want is to strengthen the laws already on the books and pass new ones to keep that from happening.

Don’t do any of the above with your gun. Store guns safely away from hands of kids, teens and people who may be dangerous to themselves or others.Be safe and responsible. That’s all we ask. If you want to keep your firearms and your rights, stay law abiding. It is only those who aren’t who will lose their rights and possibly their firearms. Guns should be sold only to people who will use them legally and are law abiding.

But do remember that law abiding gun owners like my now deceased and ex brother-in-law can become felons in a matter of seconds for using a gun to kill people.

It could happen to you. Think about it. Wouldn’t you want as much as possible done to prevent your own loved one from being avoidably and senselessly killed in a violent and sudden shooting incident? I believe the answer is yes. And guess what, 97% of Americans are on my side.

We have come to expect that our cars will be as safe and laws have passed that require safety measures for our cars. Why? We don’t like it when our loved ones are killed in avoidable accidents. And lawsuits have held car manufacturers responsible for safety. There are laws to keep smokers from smoking in public places. Those laws keep us all safer. There are laws to keep children safe from defective products. There are laws against driving while drunk. These are all public health and safety laws that we know have worked to prevent senseless accidents and incidents. That is what stronger gun laws would do. We are pretty united about these laws.

This week the Brady Campaign launched a re-brand and is now Brady, United Against Gun Violence. Sarah and Jim Brady would be proud of the organization they helped to found. There is a lot of history with passing stronger gun laws and we celebrated that history this week in many ways. Check out this wonderful video:

We know that the country is actually united against gun violence. Check out the new Brady website. I love the “Take action, not sides” and “It’s in our hands.”

It is in our hands.

No one is coming for your cows, your hamburgers, your guns. Don’t believe it. It’s not true.

W

Valentine’s Day Massacre

On February 14th, 1929, in the midst of prohibition and Al Capone’s mob, there was a massacre in Chicago:

Chicago’s gang war reached its bloody climax in the so-called St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. One of Capone’s longtime enemies, the Irish gangster George “Bugs” Moran, ran his bootlegging operations out of a garage on the North Side of Chicago. On February 14, seven members of Moran’s operation were gunned down while standing lined up, facing the wall of the garage. Some 70 rounds of ammunition were fired. When police officers from Chicago’s 36th District arrived, they found one gang member, Frank Gusenberg, barely alive. In the few minutes before he died, they pressed him to reveal what had happened, but Gusenberg wouldn’t talk.

In 1934, as a result of the gang and mob violence in Chicago and elsewhere, often with the use of machine guns and silencers, Congress passed the 1934 National Firearms Act. This law required restrictions on the sale and possession of automatic guns like machine guns and also on gun silencers. Some wanted to ban these guns outright but in the end, the compromise was a national registry for these firearms, along with a lengthy waiting period and a $200 tax meant to discourage people from buying these products. The NRA supported the law. And Congress did something about the awful violence from the weapons on the list of those restricted.

And it worked. Machine guns and silencers are rarely, if ever, used in crime or shootings. Never mind that the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions in Congress would just love to have silencers back on the market so that anyone could have one. Imagine the Sandy Hook or Marjory Stoneman Douglas or any other mass shooting death toll if others in the buildings or vicinity did not hear gunshots going off to alert them to an emergency. It was actually the heinous mass shooting at a Las Vegas music concert, involving multiple rounds of ammunition and a bump stock on an assault rifle that derailed the bill to make silencers easier to purchase.

Good grief. What were they thinking in the first place? Never mind. The gun lobby does not like gun laws unless they loosen the restrictions on deadly weapons.

On Valentine’s Day of 2008 5 students were shot and killed and 17 injured at Northern Illinois University. 

A Graduate student who had stopped taking his medication for a psychiatric condition carried a shotgun and 3 handguns with many rounds of ammunition- because he could. Happy Valentine’s Day America.

Last Valentine’s Day there was a massacre as well. 17 students and teachers were massacred by a young man with a semiautomatic rifle who shot off 100 rounds into the bodies of human beings going about their everyday lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:

It is the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history, surpassing the Columbine High School massacre that took place on April 20, 1999. The shooting came at a period of heightened public support for gun control following attacks in Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland Springs, Texas respectively in October and November 2017.

And Congress did…………?

So again we are here imploring Congress to have the spine to stand up to the interests of the corporate gun lobby. In my last post, I wrote about the hearing that occurred last week- H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. H.R. 8 was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last night. This will be the first such bill to get a hearing, pass out of committee and get a vote on the House floor in decades. We expect the bill to get a floor vote later this month. This is the best news I have heard in a long time. The timing was not a coincidence. It passed just as the country will be remembering the victims of the Parkland shooting. Thank you to the members of the committee who voted with the American public. It was, of course, a party-line vote with all Republicans voting against it. Why? We know the answer.

There will be a vote in the House but the Senate, controlled by Republicans and the Presidency, bought and paid for by the NRA ( and perhaps in collusion with the Russians) will be too afraid to do the right thing. They will fail us again.

Meanwhile, what is going on with the Parkland students who have been so eloquent and have changed the entire conversation around gun violence in America?:

The teens haven’t stopped working, urging young people to register and vote even though some of the students thrust into celebrity are barely old enough to vote themselves. They’ve been lobbying for tighter restrictions on firearms and challenging the National Rifle Association and the politicians it supports.
More: After Parkland shooting: A day-by-day fight over guns in America 
“I’ll always care about the issues that face our nation,” Kasky told USA TODAY. “And I will always feel dedicated to helping play a part in solving them.”
Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, lauded the students as articulate – and understandably angry. She noted that after the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, the survivors were very young children whose parents took up the challenge. High-schoolers made the scene different, she said.

“A lot of time the media is rushing to the site of a mass shooting but not finding a lot of people to talk to,” Brown said. “Here, you had people willing to talk, and articulate.” (…) The school will mark the tragic anniversary Thursday with a Day of Service and Love. Students will be serving breakfast to local first responders and packing meals for undernourished children. Mental health experts and therapy dogs will be there. At 10:17 a.m., the entire district and the community is asked to observe a moment of silence to honor the 17 who lost their lives. (…) There was no significant federal legislation, but the Trump administration did issue a federal regulation banning bump stocks.
The shootings “started a journey that we are still witnessing,” Brown said. “These kids are still out there, and they have made change.”

They are still out there, many still hoping for common sense from Congress. As teen-agers they have been amazingiy resilient, articulate, brave, bold and persistent. But they, like those of us who have been doing this for decades, have discovered how difficult it is to change the gun laws and the conversation around guns and gun violence.

It doesn’t have to be this way but here we are. Only in America.

Today please take action. Participate in a service in your community. Donate to a gun violence prevention organization of your choice. Call your Congress members and ask them to support H.R. 8 in the name of the victims and survivors of the Parkland shooting. Attend a local event if there is one. In Minnesota there is a Protect Minnesota Broken Hearts day in remembrance of the Parkland shooting victims and a lobby day to let legislators know that we want them to support legislation to expand background checks and for Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

And, as always happens after one of the many mass shootings in America, parents of the victims get involved in passionate pleas to do something. They know the pain. They grieve. They are angry. They are resolved. They want something to happen. Such is the case with one of the most high profile of the Parkland parents, Fred Guttenberg. Here is an article about him:

Guttenberg used to own Dunkin’ Donuts franchises; now he’s become a full-time activist opposing the NRA and telling any politician who will listen about what happened to his daughter, a high school freshman and competitive dancer. He has one rule: “I wouldn’t ever sit down with these people — I stood,” Guttenberg says. “I did not want to make anybody feel comfortable talking about what happened to my daughter…the second-to-last to be shot, on the third floor of this school, running from an active shooter. One shot in her spine. Because it could have been their kid, and they’re going to know that.”

“It could have been their kid”…… Yes it could have and could be. Once it happens your whole perspective changes. Nothing is the same and suddenly gun violence is a thing. I appreciate the parents who put themselves out there knowing that ugly conspiracy theorists will attack them and deny their grief as if it isn’t real; knowing that the gun lobby will argue against common sense and lie and deceive in spite of the tragic violence happening every day.

What if it was their kid? What if it was their sister, father, mother, brother, good friend?

I will be in spirit with the students, friends and parents and with those who are taking action. Sadly, I will be attending the funeral of a very good friend and supporting her family. As it turns out they are a gun owning family who have always supported common sense gun legislation. They understand that gun laws and owning guns can co-exist.

I will be grieving with my good friend’s family today. I will also grieve for my own sister as I do at the funerals of others. But I will rejoice that we are moving forward to change how things are to how they can and should be.

In memory of the victims of the Parkland shooting:

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

Scott Beigel, 35

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14

Nicholas Dworet, 17

Aaron Feis, 37

Jaime Guttenberg, 14

Chris Hixon, 49

Luke Hoyer, 15

Cara Loughran, 14

Gina Montalto, 14

Joaquin Oliver, 17

Alaina Petty, 14

Meadow Pollack, 18

Helena Ramsay, 17

Alex Schachter, 14

Carmen Schentrup, 16

Peter Wang, 15

America- home of mass shootings and land of the dead

You can’t make up what is happening in our country on so many fronts. There’s “the wall”. There’s “the shutdown”. There’s “Roger Stone”. There are “Trump’s tweets”. There’s the news of “the opioid crisis”. There’s “the ubiquitous chaos”. There is the “immigration debacle”. There are “Presidential candidate announcements”.

But lost in all of this news is the fact that in our country mass shootings have continued unabated and, one might say, with increasing frequency. They have barely been a blip in the news because of all of the other news. But some have noticed. Axios, for example. posted this article to highlight another violent and deadly week in America:

A rash of mass shooting incidents across the United States was forced under the radar last week as cable news largely focused on the indictment of former Trump political adviser Roger Stone and the end of the longest government shutdown in modern history.


The big picture: A number of last week’s mass shooting incidents and threats specifically targeted women and other family members, highlighting the harrowing statistic that women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than in other developed countries.

Women in America are at risk for their lives from the men in their lives. There is not a question about this in case someone wants to ask one. I sit on the board of Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, home of the Duluth model, The model has been made famous because it works. Men who abuse are arrested and if ordered by the court, must attend group sessions to learn how to change their aggressive and violent behavior. If men can change their behaviors women will be safer. And if the country is accountable for making sure that domestic abusers can’t get their hands on guns, we will all be safer. Should that be controversial?

The Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire can also work to educate the public about the risk of guns in homes to gun owners. For, as the Axios article points out, it’s about women at risk. And children are at risk if women are at risk. Other family members are at risk. Innocent people are at risk.

Here is a video showing how easy it is for kids to get their hands on guns in homes. Anyone can get their hands on an unsecured and loaded gun and cause a death or an injury. It’s that simple. It’s that quick. It’s that deadly.

The thing is, we can do something about all of this but we aren’t- so far anyway. There is finally hope that Congress and state legislators are actually ready to stand up to the gun lobby and the decades’ long hold it has had on our elected leaders and the national conversation about gun safety reform.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As to incidents of recent mass shootings, mostly domestic related, listed in the Axios article, the Brady Campaign released a statement about the lastest of the shootings which took place near Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

“The fact that there have already been more than 1,000 shooting deaths this year is astounding in the worst way. And now, two families in Louisiana have been destroyed because, yet again, a dangerous person was able to gain access to a gun. That this happened in a state that features some of the most lax gun laws in the country is, sadly, unsurprising. We owe it to the victims of this heinous crime to offer more than thoughts and prayers – we owe it to them to determine how the shooter obtained his firearm, and then to work to pass stronger legislation to make sure that this sort of shooting spree cannot again take place in Louisiana.” (…) Louisiana has ranked as the third deadliest state in the country for gun violence, with 987 firearm deaths in 2016 and 21.2 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.

Louisiana has lax gun laws as pointed out in the statement. Why? Good question. We know the answer. “Rights” Spineless politicians to stand up the corporate gun lobby. Controversial? The noisy gun rights extremists who actually represent a very small percentage of Americans, including gun owners. Money, power and control.

And just when I thought I was done writing this post another incident of a mass shooting came across my Facebook feed. 5- yes 5 Houston police officers were shot in an incident in which the suspect was shot dead(today):

“This evening’s horrific attack on police officers is a solemn reminder of the service and sacrifice our brave men and women in law enforcement make every day to keep us safe,” he said in the statement. 

True. It’s also a reminder that we are living in a deadly country where mass shootings are happening every day and we’re doing nothing about it. It’s crazy making and ludicrous and just plain unacceptable. When will it stop?

It’s time for common sense and logic to be the guidepost for how we treat deadly weapons in our country. Guns kill, period. They are the only product on the market designed to kill and yet are treated as if they are just a “tool” to be used by whoever wants to have a gun or carry one. The cavalier attitude towards guns and gun ownership is killing us.

We are better than this.

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: