A summit of gun violence prevention leaders and advocates

There are so many things to talk about.

I have just made a trip to Washington D.C. for the joint Brady Campaign, Americans for Responsible Solutions summit- A Nation United for a Safer Future.  I have been involved in this movement long enough to have met many leaders and victims from all over the country. Many of us met and continued our friendship through the Million Mom March and now Brady Campaign. I also have met and know people involved with Americans for Responsible Solutions. Social media has allowed us all to connect and become friends. Many victims and survivors attended the summit.

Here were just a few of the victims and survivors in attendance.

A mother whose daughter was shot at the Aurora Theater; a mother and father of a young woman reporter shot on live T.V.; a young woman whose mother was shot in the Clackamas Mall shooting just days before the Sandy Hook shooting; a mother and a father whose college students survived the Virginia Tech shooting; a father whose son was shot when a friend was handling a gun; a mother whose 13 year old daughter was shot by a gun stored openly and loaded in the home of a friend; a man whose mother shot and killed herself; the woman who kicked the ammunition away when the Tucson shooter stopped to re-load his gun; a father whose son was shot in the Isla Vista mass shooting; several women whose family members had committed suicide by gun; a woman whose brother was shot and killed many years ago; me- who lost a sister to bullets during a domestic shooting; Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign whose brother was shot and injured in the terror attack on the Empire State Building; a woman who had lost two children to shootings; two women whose children were shot and injured in the Jewish Day Care Center in Los Angeles; a man whose mother was shot and killed when a shooter was looking for someone else and mistakenly shot and killed her and wounded his father…….

Aside from victims and survivors, attendees included law enforcement officers, interested advocates, leaders of national and state organizations, clergy, staff members of the two organizations, politicians, lawyers, health care providers, NAACP leaders, film makers, a founder of the Women’s March, and many others.

Politicians who spoke to and with us:

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.

Senators Cory Booker, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Connecticut Representative Esty, California Representative Mike Thompson, Rhode Island Representative Dave Cicilline, Representatives Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy from Florida and others.

Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General

Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama.

But we didn’t just listen and react to these amazing speakers. We took action.

Hundreds of participants lobbied on Capitol Hill and had great visits, “armed” with information about two concerning bills that would make us all less safe if enacted:

H.R. 38- Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 ( Arm Everyone bill). This bill would, if it became law, override steps that states have taken to protect public safety and put citizens at risk. It would leave states with no power to decide who carries hidden loaded guns ( or openly carried) within their own states and communities.

H.R.367- cynically called the Hearing Protection Act. This bill is meant to do what the gun lobby loves- increase sales of accessories to guns ( gun sales are down right now) and attempt to undo the 1934 National Firearms Act which requires individuals who purchase gun silencers and machine guns to undergo strict background checks, fingerprints, payment to register and license the gun/silencer and a waiting period. These regulations work. We just don’t see silencers used in crimes since that act became law. If this bill were to pass, we could expect to see silencers sold without Brady background checks through private seller internet sales and private sellers at gun shows. It also creates threats to law enforcement and would make it more difficult to respond to mass shooters as the sound of gunfire would be muffled and dispersed. There are many items sold to protect hearing while using firearms that make more sense.

Can we just talk about the fact that conceal carry weapons holders DO kill and threaten people with their guns even after going through a permitting process? Read the Violence Policy Center‘s report- Concealed Carry Killers. And can we also talk about the fact that 11 states now allow people to carry guns with no training or permit requirements.?Without a system of universal background checks, these people could be prohibited purchasers who will be allowed to carry their guns everywhere. How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the bad guys with guns? I have not heard an answer that makes any sense. The idea that it’s OK to normalize the carrying of guns everywhere by anyone is not only ludicrous, it is irresponsible and dangerous.

On “The Hill”, we had some great conversations, a chance to thank those who have voted against the gun lobby sponsored bills and who have led the charge and the conversation about the need to prevent gun violence. And we had a few victories when Congress members changed their positions after meeting with our groups of victims and advocates.

The importance of the summit and visits to Capitol Hill cannot be overstated. Advocates who had never attended a summit before were engaged and energized. They now know they can do this. People like me came away re-energized and encouraged that, in spite of the Republicans in charge, the issue of gun violence and the prevention of it has more support than ever before. It’s only Congress (doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby) who stands in the way of common sense. And while they are doing that, 32,000 Americans ( give or take)- real people- someone’s family member or good friend- are killed by guns. It happens every day.

During the summit we all engaged our minds about legislation, other actions, and changing the conversation about this public health epidemic. There was much to think about and actual incidents that reminded us about why we were there. Among just a few:

Americans continue to die by bullets in alarming numbers. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of shooting incidents. It’s not pretty.

And here are the reasons people get shot in Aor shoot others from Parents Against Gun Violence::

reasons people shot in April

And ISIS is telling its’ members to buy guns in America because it is so easy:

“The acquisition of firearms can be very simple depending on one’s geographical location,” the article read. “In most U.S. states, anything from a single-shot shotgun all the way up to a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle can be purchased at showrooms or through online sales — by way of private dealers — with no background checks, and without requiring either an ID or a gun license.”

The Rumiyah article specifically touted gun shows where these unregulated sales are often easiest.

And the officer who shot a black teen in Texas was fired and charged with murder. 

And Gander Mountain management bet wrongly on gun sales and lost. (Go figure. When Democrats are in office, the gun lobby scares people into buying guns in high numbers. When Republicans are in charge- no worries.)

“In 2016, at a rate of more than twice a week, a child under 18 years old was shot and killed with a loaded, unsecured gun”. This is from the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance, a new organization that presented information at the summit. One can look up current information of  shootings of and by children on this site. Who cares about the children?

And in just another average day in America, two young people are dead in a murder/suicide at a Texas college campus. Domestic disputes often spill over into public places and also way too often are the cause of mass shootings.

Asking about loaded, unsecured guns in homes can save lives. (ASK campaign)

And a health care bill passed in the House that will leave millions of Americans with no health care and lower taxes on the wealthy.

And those those with mental illness will have easier access to guns than health care.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic.

Many gun deaths and injuries are preventable and avoidable.

If we are to have the serious conversation we need and deserve to have, recognizing that there is a problem in the first place that can actually be fixed, or cured, or prevented or reduced in severity and frequency, is the most important thing we can do. Using some common sense in arguments and discussions will lead to responsible solutions.

On my plane back home from DC were at least a half dozen members of Congress, including my own, anxious to get back home for the recess ( didn’t they just have one?). While waiting to board, I spoke with my own Representative who introduced me to a Senator from a neighboring state- a Republican. We had a good discussion about health care and gun violence. We did not agree on much. But his main reason for being skeptical or against common sense solutions to save lives is one of the gun lobby’s myths. He actually believes that organizations such as the Brady Campaign and Americans for Responsible Solutions are out to get his guns. He is a lapdog for the gun lobby and will do their bidding no matter what anyone says to him.

As long as some of our politicians are in the pocket of the corporate gun lobby, we can expect to see bills that could become law that will actually make us less safe and lead to an increase in gun deaths and injuries. Is there anyone who thinks that is a good idea? The American public agrees that passing strong gun laws is a good idea.

Please make sure your own elected leaders are doing the bidding of the people and not the corporate gun lobby. We can make a difference if our voices are loud and clear about saving lives. For that is the bottom line.

NRA Convention myths and facts

Trump NRAStarting tomorrow Atlanta will host the annual NRA Convention. It should be yet another testament to the more and more extreme agenda of the leadership of the NRA. Nationally and in states all over the country, the gun lobby’s leaders and lobbyists have been pushing for ever more dangerous laws to undermine public safety.

Donald Trump will speak at the convention on his 99th day in office. He must believe that the American public will find this to be one of his key accomplishments in his first 100 days. The accomplishment will be for the corporate gun lobby and, if you follow the money,  for gun industry profits.

There is little real support for these bills except for the NRA’s leadership and lapdog politicians. Americans for Responsible Solutions released new polling data that shows that most gun owners and NRA members do not agree with the agenda of the organization:

As the National Rifle Association (NRA) prepares to kick off its annual convention in Atlanta later this week, a new national survey of gun owners finds overwhelming opposition to the dangerous policies and positions supported by the Washington gun lobby. The poll, released today by Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, also finds that a many gun owners believe that the NRA has become increasingly out of touch with them on important gun safety issues and shows that a majority of gun owners believe the NRA has lost its way, straying from its original purpose and mission. (…) The poll illustrates a disconnect between the views of gun owners and the priorities being pushed by the gun lobby. Key federal legislative priorities named by the NRA, including federally mandated concealed carry, deregulating the sale of gun silencers, and eliminating gun-free school zones, receive very low support from gun owners themselves.

There is a disconnect not only between gun owners and the corporate gun lobby but between the general public as well. That is because the NRA and other pro gun organizations are out of touch with the real America. Their agenda is all about power, control and money. In a recent post, I mentioned that the NRA has become now a talking head for the agenda of the political far right:

The right-wing conservatives now ascendant in Washington are not so shy about their ties to the gun group, and the NRA and its allies are championing policies that would formerly be regarded as fringe. At the federal level, the NRA’s top legislative priority is a bill that would require states to honor each other’s laws governing the concealed carrying of handguns. Another gun-rights measure pending in Congress would legalize silencers, and a third would abolish gun-free school zones.

So let’s review, shall we?

The NRA now has a “seat” at the White House like in no prior administration.

The NRA spent $30 million to get Donald Trump elected.

The NRA spent political capital and actual capital to make sure that the open Supreme Court seat went to someone they wanted- Neal Gorsuch.

At least one NRA Board member, Ted Nugent, has dined at the White House with Donald Trump- last week. You can’t state clearly enough how offensive Ted Nugent has become and yet still retains a Board position with the NRA. Why was he dining at the White House along with someone who seems to share his views- ex VP candidate Sarah Palin- the one who shoots bears from a helicopter and loves her guns. Ted Nugent is not what we would call a fine upstanding citizen who should be dining with any President in my opinion.

The NRA’s extreme agenda is now in the “mainstream” of our government and will be apparently pushed by our very own President.

Americans continue to die from gunshot injuries at the alarming rate of 90 per day and around 32,000 a year.

Mass shootings continue on a pace more rapid than in past years.

Veterans are shooting and killing themselves in gun suicides daily but the House and perhaps the Senate will decide that not only is that OK, they will make it more possible.

Alex Jones, right wing conspiracy theorist and who believes the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, is a friend of our President.

Common sense is nowhere to be seen at the federal level concerning a national public health epidemic.

Americans generally do have common sense about gun policy, but as long as the corporate gun lobby has a hold on our political leaders, the public’s wishes will be ignored.

“Corporations are people” but corporations don’t get shot and killed. The gun lobby is a corporation formed by the gun industry and the leaders and lobbyists of the pro gun movement. As long as this is the case, we can expect to see shootings continue unabated.

Here are some facts to lead us into the week-end’s festivities:

While the NRA has been placing friends and allies in the Trump Administration and getting favors in return, it has also been relying on relationships with legislators and even President Trump’s own family to push its legislative goals in Congress. NRA allies in Congress and the White House have already delivered some quiet victories for the gun lobby that will endanger public safety. In February, Congress passed and President Trump signed legislation behind 3 responsiblesolutions.org #ResistTheGunLobby closed doors that eliminated a President Obama-era rule that prevented mentally impaired individuals from accessing firearms.12 The rule had required the inclusion of records into the NICS background check system of recipients of Social Security disability benefits who also required a fiduciary representative to manage their benefits because of a disabling mental disorder.13 And in March, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it harder to keep guns out of the hands of veterans with severe mental illnesses by effectively prohibiting the Veterans Administration from sharing those records with NICS while also removing the 174,000 records already included in the system. This will put the veterans who most need our support at increased risk of doing harm to themselves or others. The most recent statistics available from the VA found that an average of 20 veterans per day die from suicide.14 While these are early victories for the NRA, their real agenda is focused on policies that would undermine law enforcement and put public safety at risk, making communities across the country less safe.

And more, from the ARS article, from the mouth of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre:

In January, before President Trump was even sworn in, LaPierre made the NRA’s new mission clear, warning members that the “forces that conspired to keep Donald Trump out of the White House are coming together to sabotage his administration,” seeking to “inflict their revenge.”46 A month later LaPierre compared antiTrump protestors to “terrorists” and joined Trump’s attacks on “leftist media” and the “fake news.”47 LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox are both slated to speak alongside Trump at the NRA’s annual meeting.48

Revenge. What is that exactly? And what are we talking about here? What I am talking about is public health and safety and protecting lives. The NRA and corporate gun lobby don’t seem to care a whit about that because… rights……money……loyalty…….power……control……..business.

The alternative facts and fantasy of more guns everywhere making American great again continues. Facts don’t matter when it comes to the gun extremists. They want what they want. And what they want is not good for America. A visit to the NRA headquarters is featured in a recent New York Times article takes on the fantasy world of the gun lobby in which we put our heads in the sand and ignore our real problems with guns and gun violence. From the article:

The film star stands tall at the National Rifle Association’s National Firearms Museum — true, only as a cardboard cutout of himself. But the cardboard fantasy of the good guy gunning down the bad guy is what makes the museum work as an enjoyable escape from the life-and-death reality of American gun carnage.

There are thousands of ingenious, gleaming rifles and handguns in displays about America’s gun-rich history of colonialism, immigration, expansionism and vigilante justice. But it is the gallery devoted to Hollywood and its guns and good-guy shooters that best illustrates the power of fantasy now driving the modern gun rights debate.

“Go ahead, make my day,” Clint Eastwood growled famously to a movie bad guy before dispatching him — kaboom! The museum narrative identifies the actual movie guns, not the actors, as having the “starring” roles in assorted western and terrorist-fantasy shootouts. The gallery includes some of the blank rounds actually fired in movies, as opposed to the live rounds bedeviling real life beyond the film screen.

During a visit, the difference between “acting” and “acting out” necessarily comes to mind. Why is there no stream of gripping films about the thousands of troubled Americans with easy access to guns who can lethally act out their darkest grievances on family and society day after day? Shooters nowadays must rise above the B-movie level to get noticed amid the 30,000-plus annual toll of gun death. They need a different twist in motive or a record-high death toll — or maybe the live delivery of death on Facebook, as happened last week — to jolt a jaded public. Inert politicians, of course, remain far more sensitive to the gun lobby than to routine gun mayhem.

(…) The N.R.A.’s latest priority is rooted in its ultimate fantasy that society will be safer if ordinary Americans are allowed to routinely pack a pistol. The organization is pushing Congress to pass a national concealed-carry reciprocity law to make it easier for people with state concealed-gun permits to carry their firearms nationwide. This is part of the campaign to make gun possession ubiquitous among ordinary citizens. All states permit some concealed carry, but under vastly different safety controls. That is why opponents wisely fear that national reciprocity is a ploy to sell more guns and undermine stronger local and state gun controls.

Fantasyland for sure. Evidence and real shootings every day lend the lie to the fantasy about more guns making us safer. Survivors and family members have found out that what they see on TV or in the movies is fantasy. What happens in real life is no fantasy.

The fantasy is that the NRA leaders and lobbyists live in fantasyland as they promote their agenda. One has to wonder when this fantasy bubble will burst. In the ARS polling ( from article above) an interesting question was asked and here is the answer:

  • The NRA is out of touch with gun owners on gun safety issues. 67 percent of the gun owners feel that the NRA used to be an organization dedicated to gun safety, but it’s been overtaken by lobbyists and the interests of gun manufacturers and lost its original purpose and mission. Less than 50 percent of gun owners feel that the organization represents their interests.

It’s past time for a change. As the myths and fantasies of the NRA continue to be perpetuated by those at the top, including now our President, people are dying. It doesn’t have to be this way.

 

UPDATE:

This Media Matters article sets the record straight about the myth that the NRA is a Civil Rights organization as often touted by their leaders:

Despite targeting a civil rights hero, the NRA has routinely attempted to co-opt the civil rights movement by, among other things, calling gun regulations “equally as unconstitutional” as Jim Crow laws and bemoaning that “too many Americans don’t think of the Second Amendment as a civil rights issue.” In August 2015, NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action media liaison Lars Dalseide compared a Seattle ordinance that would fund gun violence research by imposing a tax on the sale of guns and ammunition to Jim Crow-era poll taxes.

In March 2014, NRA board member Ted Nugent wrote in a column for conspiracy website WorldNetDaily that gun owners “must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns,” in response to a law that banned assault weapons following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Nugent went on to call Rosa Parks his “hero” and has previously called himself “Rosa Parks with a Gibson.”

The NRA can in no way be compared to our nation’s real Civil Rights organizations and actions taken to push for those rights. The organization was founded on the idea that it would support hunters and hunter and gun safety. The fact that the leaders and lobbyists use their efforts to increase profits of the gun industry and their control over elected officials by couching it in civil rights language is dangerous and fantasy. I am betting that even many who pay their dues to the organization have no idea that the leaders make this claim.

Nugent is no Rosa Parks.

Wayne LaPierre is no John Lewis.

False facts are not facts.

Myths are fantastical thinking.

The definition of fantasy:

  1. obsolete :  hallucination

  2. 2:  fancy; especially :  the free play of creative imagination

  3. 3:  a creation of the imaginative faculty whether expressed or merely conceived: such asa :  a fanciful design or invention a fantasy of delicate traceryb :  a chimerical or fantastic notion His plans are pure fantasy.c :  fantasia 1 the organ fantasy of Johannes Brahmsd :  imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters spent the summer reading fantasy —called also fantasy fiction

  4. 4:  caprice served to fulfill the king’s fantasies

  5. 5:  the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need an object of fantasy; also :  a mental image or a series of mental images (such as a daydream) so created sexual fantasies

  6. 6often attributive :  a coin usually not intended for circulation as currency and often issued by a dubious authority (such as a government-in-exile)

 

 

 

Virginia Tech-moving stones

Virginia TechIt’s Easter tomorrow for those who practice the Christian faith. It’s also the Passover season for Jews. What will the victims and survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting be doing and thinking about on the 10 year anniversary of what was our nation’s most deadly and heinous mass shooting until the Sandy Hook shooting took the lives of 20 first graders and 6 educators and the Orlando nightclub shooting took the lives of 50- yes 50 innocent Americans?

When will we ever learn?

The grief of the Virginia Tech shooting victims is matched by the grief of 90 families a day after a gunshot injury became a gun death due to homicide, suicide or an “accidental” gun discharge. This is the daily carnage and the daily news in America in spite of holidays, families pleading for common sense and brave elected leaders willing to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and demand that the devastation be, at the least, reduced and at the most prevented.

We know there is no way to stop all shootings but shouldn’t we at least try? When a public health epidemic that takes the lives of so many people every year (32,000-33,000) we always get busy to study why and then recommend changes or cures that can prevent the cause of the disease or cause of death.

In America, instead, we are making things worse by loosening gun laws at the state and federal level. Why? Good question. I don’t really believe that the gun lobby wants people to die. They couldn’t could they? They must be affected by the photos and videos of all of the shootings that take place on a regular basis everywhere.

So why do they resist gun safety reform and efforts to prevent shootings so vigorously?

It’s a question that we must ask and it needs an answer.

Following the money is one answer. Power and control is another.

Meanwhile, while we are trying to figure out how to work around the money and profits of the gun industry and the outsized power of the NRA and other organizations, mass shootings continue unabated:

Perhaps because Virginia Tech’s fatality count was so high, most of the school shootings that followed didn’t receive the attention they might have in the decade prior to the massacre.

Are these kinds of shooting becoming normalized to the public or is it they don’t want to hear about them because they feel helpless to do anything about them? They are NOT normal and we can’t let them become normal. It is simply not normal for someone to walk into a school and spray bullets around killing random, or sometimes, selected victims.

And of course, the “everyday” shootings happen without much media coverage and every day, ordinary people’s lives are changed forever. You may know some of these people. They are living close to you- in your neighborhoods and communities. They are remembering lost loved ones every day. This is not normal.

Memorials to victims have become normal. Flowers, candles, teddy bears, hearts, cards, bell ringings, stones.

Memorials sprout up all over the country. In the case of Virginia Tech it was stones. From the article in The Trace:

Without realizing it, the kids at Virginia Tech were propelled by the same instinct that leaves mourners in America’s cities searching their surroundings for a way to honor shooting victims whose deaths often go unnoticed outside their neighborhoods. In Lexington, Kentucky, last fall, high schoolers laced track shoes to a chain link fence in homage to a slain 15-year-old runner, Trinity Gay. After a homicide in New York City, lampposts sprouted roses and sidewalks glittered with liquor bottles. In Cincinnati, a menagerie of stuffed animals was deployed to guard the home of a 9-year-old. (…)

The permanent memorial was dedicated with a ceremony on August 19, 2007, four months and three days after the massacre. Thousands of people gathered on the lawn that day, sporting their Hokie colors of maroon and orange. The university president spoke. A bell tolled 32 times. Each original stone had been placed in a mahogany box with a hinged lid, like a miniature coffin. Later, the boxes would be delivered to the families of the victims.

Uma Loganathan can hardly remember the dedication; grief seems to have blurred many of her memories from that time. What she does remember is that first semicircle of stones set earnestly upon the grass, their rough edges befitting of her sorrow.

“Befitting of her sorrow”…. Can anything befit the sorrow we all feel after losing a loved one to gun violence? Or having a close call as did my friend Lori Hass, mother of a Virginia Tech survivor?

Like other survivors, I got into this GVP movement because of what happened. But that’s in the past and what we’re working for is a future where there’s less gun violence and where we’re doing more to prevent it. Our goals are to take the evidence and the policies that work and begin to apply as many as are appropriate. For example, we understand that domestic violence situations become exponentially more lethal when there’s a firearm introduced. Road rage with a firearm can turn lethal. Confrontation in the streets become lethal when there’s a firearm. Toddlers have killed more Americans than terrorists if you look at the numbers over time — all because somebody was careless and left firearms out and unsecured.

Lori Haas speaks during a vigil outside the U.S. Capitol on April 16, 2013, to remember those murdered and demand congressional action on gun legislation.

ALAMY

We want policies that make us all safer. We think domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to guns. We think that there should be a background check on all buyers — how do you stop a prohibited buyer from purchasing a gun if you don’t do a background check to figure out if he or she is prohibited? We believe that you should have to have hands-on training around concealed carry. We think there should be penalties so that gun owners must properly store and secure their firearms so that children can’t get access to them. We think there should be limitations on the type of firepower that everyday citizens can carry on our street. The efficacy of a lot of those policies have been proven in other states and those states have fewer deaths. New York’s gun death rate per 100,000 is in the low, low single digits. Virginia’s is 10.9.

It’s devastating for all of the families, me included, to relive the trauma each time another school shooting occurs. And you can’t help but relive it. What we’re also really traumatized by is the fact that someone else is now added to the club nobody wants to be in: the one where your loved one’s been shot and killed or injured. But [that] club is strong, the club is active, the club is compassionate and supportive. I know dozens of families from dozens of mass shootings. Every day we have gun violence in America, so there is a camaraderie that’s very understood by those [who have experienced it].

Ten years ago tomorrow, the feelings will re-emerge of how things went down that day ten years ago. Lori gives a very moving testimony to how one family experienced the horrendous shooting of 32.

Tomorrow will also be Easter. A stone figures prominently in the Easter story. Stones can be moved but they are hard to move and they are hard to destroy. Tombstones are made of stone for a reason. They signify a marker where a loved one is buried and they are there mostly forever. So are the memories of our lost loved ones.

Tomorrow, please remember these 32. See their photos. Say their names.

We Will Not Forget

Families have approved and released these official biographies and photos of our 32 fallen Hokies. Please join us in remembering and honoring their lives by clicking on their names or photos.

And then work with Lori Hass, Colin Goddard, Andy Goddard and the millions of us involved in preventing the next one of these shootings. Colin has been an advocate for gun violence prevention since he was shot and injured in the shooting. The film, Living for 32, features Colin’s story and his efforts to expose the lack of Brady background checks on all gun sales.

We should not have to erect stone memorials to victims. We should not have to move stones to get the attention of the public and elected leaders about our deadly gun violence epidemic. We should expect that our leaders do this without question in the name of the victims and common sense. If we are to change the conversation and change the culture, we need more than memorials, thoughts, prayers, flowers, etc.

WE NEED ACTION. Get involved in the name of the victims and just because losing 90 Americans a day to gunshot injuries is not normal and not acceptable. Let’s get to work.

 

Gun laws in Hawaii

hawaii_2009_01Did I mention that I was going on a family vacation to Maui? I have been there twice before and have written about it on my previous blog site. But it’s worth reviewing the gun laws of Hawaii since they are strong and effective. Let’s take a look from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

 

Among other things, Hawaii:

Yikes. Licensing and registration! Surely there must be confiscation. But no. No mention anywhere of wholesale confiscation of guns.

Hawaii gets a grade of A- from the Law Center. And, well, wouldn’t you know it, the state has the lowest gun death rate in the U.S. And for those people who still believe that President Obama was not born in America, Hawaii is, indeed, one of the 50 states.

And this is NOT fake news by the way. Facts matter when it comes to determining whether strong gun laws work. And they do. States that have strong gun laws generally have lower gun death rates.

It would really be hard to imagine someone carrying a loaded gun around in their swim trunks or bikini, right? And when jumping into the pool, leaving the gun sit around in a purse or a holster ripe for the taking? Or on boogie boards or surf boards or paddle boards- who needs a gun? The sun and the waves call people to the sea and relaxation. Whale watching, fishing, snorkeling, horseback riding, viewing the volcano-no need for a gun.

I suppose there might be some idiot who thinks he/she needs one in their bathing suit. They could always buy this crotch holster for wearing under their suits and shorts. Looks comfortable to me. Or there is the bra holder for a concealed gun. That usually goes well. Also comfortable.

Does anyone remember when this happened?

A Michigan woman accidentally shot herself to death last month while adjusting the .22-caliber revolver in her bra holster, police said Wednesday.

Christina Bond, 55, was struck in an eye in her St. Joseph home on New Year’s Day. She died the next day in a Kalamazoo hospital, where she had been airlifted.

“She was having trouble adjusting her bra holster, couldn’t get it to fit the way she wanted it to,” St. Joseph Public Safety Director Mark Clapp told the Kalamazoo Gazette. “She was looking down at it and accidentally discharged the weapon.”

Sigh.

She had two children.

Guns are not to be carried everywhere by everyone. Hawaii has that right, thank goodness.

Our main danger could be getting too close to a whale while watching from the boat, or drinking too many Pina Coladas or falling from a hotel balcony, a tsunami,  or even getting in a car accident on the curvy and very busy roads.

The risk of a mass shooting while visiting or getting luggage off of the airport carousel seem nil. Hawaii has not had a mass shooting since 1999 after which the state legislature passed a law requiring doctors to reveal mental status of people buying guns.

What a novel idea. It is still in existence today.

I will be happy to be visiting a state that has common sense when it comes to guns and gun policy. If only others would follow suit. But then, others have lapdog politicians doing the bidding of the gun lobby.

 

Guns in airports- the new normal?

Sanity Insanity Means Health Care And AdvertisementAs it turns out 44 states allow permit holders to carry guns in the common unsecured areas at airports across the country. Coincidentally, Florida is not one of them. But that didn’t factor into the mass shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport yesterday.

I have been wondering ,since I assume the gun lobby reaction might be this-would someone with a loaded gun, assuming they had not been on a flight because guns are not allowed for passengers traveling on planes, had stopped the shooter? Very doubtful. As we have seen now after watching many videos and hearing from travelers, panic and chaos ensued. People ran, abandoning their luggage, wherever they could to save themselves from being shot. They ended on the tarmac, parking areas, hiding behind cars or luggage. They grabbed their children, their mothers, their friends and ran. That is the first response to an active shooter. Keep yourself and your family from being shot.

Adding one more person with a gun to the mix of panic and chaos would have assured even more confusion and possibly more deaths and injuries.

5 people are dead and 8 injured by bullets. Others were injured in the rush to escape. More families are grieving. More families are worried at the sides of hospital beds. More people affected by gun violence in America.

Minnesotans were affected by this shooting. Names of the victims have not been released yet. But we have heard from Minnesotans who were on the Delta flight that began in Anchorage, Alaska. They witnessed the shooting and the death and the chaos. Some were going on a cruise to take advantage of warmer weather during this frigid Minnesota January. Their cruise will now be different than they intended. Why?

Gun violence has a ripple effect. Those who were at that baggage claim area witnessed people dying after being shot in the head point blank. One man said he smelled the smoke from the bullets fired and thought the shooter was just behind him. He will never forget that. Some passengers spent hours on the tarmac or sheltered in place. Some passengers spent hours on planes parked on the tarmac.

Those at the baggage claim most likely thought that gun violence would never affect them. But in America, mass shootings happen at least every week and shootings happen every day. 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries from homicides, suicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

Gun violence affects more than those directly hit by a bullet and their loved ones and friends. As it turns out, it affects all of us. We watch, horrified, on a regular basis as mass shooting after mass shooting takes place on live TV. The coverage is 24/7. We are all traumatized. Some suffer from PTSD after every one of these events, thinking of their own loved one who was shot in the head or torso and died from the injuries.

Is this the new normal?

Let’s talk about guns at airports. Guns can be packed in checked luggage at U.S. airports. If you intend to do this you must declare that you have a gun packed in your checked luggage. It must be in a hard sided locked case without ammunition which must be separate. The shooter appeared to have grabbed his luggage off the carousel and gone into a bathroom where he unpacked the gun, loaded it and started randomly shooting- reloading twice.

Yes, someone could have walked into that baggage claim area with a loaded gun having parked a car or arrived by taxi and done the same thing. Guns everywhere is the norm in America and people are carrying guns everywhere. That is what the corporate gun lobby has imposed on Americans with the help of the lapdog politicians who believed in the lies and deceptions that more guns make us safer. And what we have is mass shootings in every public place in our country and also, actually more frequently, in private homes all over the country. They occur most often in guns allowed zones as it turns out.

The gun lobby yells that these shootings only happen in gun free zones. In the case of this particular shooting, they are right. But in most cases, they are wrong. Don’t believe them.

On a personal level, my sister’s shooting death happened in a guns allowed zone- a private home where most shootings occur actually.

Because gun carrying has increased with almost every state having passed laws to allow ordinary citizens to carry guns, people do carry their guns around. If they are responsible, they will know where that gun is at all times and make sure it does not fall out of their pants or their purse, etc.  That is why it is so ludicrous that so many airline passengers say they “forgot” they had a gun in their carry-on luggage. I urge you to read this TSA blog for more information.

The TSA reports that in the week between Christmas and Jan. 4th alone, they found 53 guns in carry-ons. In 2015, according to the linked blog above:

Also significant, 2,653 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging more than seven firearms per day. Of those, 2,198 (83 percent)were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 236 airports; 12 more airports than last year. There was a 20 percent increase in firearm discoveries from 2014’s total of2,212. Pictured are just some of the firearms discovered in 2015.

Wow. They have found many guns with rounds chambered and ready to go. Check out the photos provided on the blog. Grenades? Yes. Why not?

Where is common sense?

If you are a responsible gun owner, you will know where your gun is and you will also know that there are many things that cannot be brought on board airplanes. I travel enough to be very careful about what I take in my carry-ons because I don’t want to be stopped and frisked or have my carry-on luggage searched. It is annoying to me as a traveler when someone takes something they shouldn’t in their carry-ons because it slows the TSA line down and adds to the stress of traveling.

But I am happy that the TSA does such a good job of checking these things. I don’t want people armed on my flights nor do I want a grenade to go off on my flight. Remember that this happened after the terror attack of 9/11 to keep us safe. And yet, more people are terrorized by gun violence in a few weeks time than died in the attacks of 9/11. And, for goodness sake, more toddlers kill people with guns left for them to access by an adult than terrorists.

Insanity.

All of this is the result of our unique and deadly gun culture. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can actually prevent and reduce gun violence by enacting stronger laws about the people who buy and carry guns. I saw a recent meme using the gun lobby’s claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yes they do. That is why we need to keep some people from getting their hands on guns.

The shooter at the Ft. Lauderdale airport for example, we now know had some severe mental health problems. He had served in the National Guard and served a year in Iraq. He came back a changed man and even checked himself into a mental facility after telling the FBI in Alaska that he heard voices in his head.He had gone AWOL several times and got a general discharge ( likely for mental health reasons).  And yet, he was able to buy a gun. In Alaska a permit is not required to carry a gun. Good idea?

The shooter had domestic problems with his girlfriend in Alaska where he had lived and was a security guard. There were some misdemeanors on his record.

There has been a report that the shooter was a permit to carry holder. Some of the gun rights folks on Twitter feeds have disputed that. Alaska does not require a permit as such to carry a gun  for anyone over 21 who can legally possess a firearm so most likely the shooter could carry that gun, permit or not. No training requirements or classes required. Just carry a gun if you over 21.

Does this shooter look like someone who should be able to buy and carry a gun?

We can do something about this. The shooter’s family knew about his difficulties and mental health problems. There is a life saving measure that is called Gun Violence Restraining Order or Gun Violence Protective Order. Several states have passed such laws. In Minnesota it has been proposed but the legislature refused to hear it and take a vote.

The shooter’s guns could have been removed from his possession temporarily under a law like this and his name could have been placed on the list of prohibited purchasers through our FBI’s national instant check system. Of course, we also need to require that every gun purchase go through a Brady background check in order to fully save lives. Why? Because the NICS list is only for federally licensed firearms dealers. Private sellers do not have to require life saving background checks.

If we can save lives, why would we not? Do we really want those who are dangerously mentally ill carrying guns around in public places and shooting innocent Americans? If not, why do legislators refuse to hear bills that could prevent this?

We have a choice. Insanity or sanity. I know what I choose.

Ask your elected leaders to save lives. If they refuse to vote on this life saving measure, ask them why? They must be held accountable for refusing to consider options that could potentially save innocent lives.

What is normal shouldn’t be. In this year when a President who is turning everything upside down under the guise of shaking things up, we are experiencing abnormal behavior. We can’t normalize it because it could be dangerous for our democracy. Just as we can’t normalize gun violence and pretend we can’t do a thing about it.

Ask President-elect Trump if he has more than thoughts and prayers after mass shootings. He will be faced with as many, if not more, than President Obama faced during his 8 years in office. That is reality, not fiction. Tweeting about it is not enough Mr. Trump. Do something and stop tweeting.

But please do remember that the gun lobby supported President elect Trump by giving him tons of money and he owes them now. That’s called “draining the swamp” er uh……

President Obama’s response to this latest one at least mentioned the number of mass shootings we endure in our country:

“We’re heartbroken for families who have been affected,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

The president commented on the frequency of mass shootings in the US saying, “These tragedies have happened too often during the eight years that I’ve been president.

In an interview published by the BBC in 2015, Obama called the rise in mass shootings during his presidency his biggest frustration.

And yes, those of us working on gun violence prevention comment after tragedies such as the Ft. Lauderdale shooting and take criticism for “using” a tragedy to further our agenda. What? There is not a day  when we don’t have gun violence. Mass shootings are so frequent that if we wait until a different time we will never be able to talk about gun violence. And that is the agenda of the gun lobby and it’s minions. They don’t want us to talk about gun tragedies and gun deaths. This does not fit into their own scenario that guns make us safer. And so they try to stop us.

We will not be stopped.

My agenda is saving lives and living in a sane country. What’s yours?

So we will write and talk about the inconvenience of gun deaths, mass shootings, suicides, domestic homicides, toddlers killing people in increasing numbers, guns found in carry-on bags, irresponsible gun owners, the effects of weak gun laws and whatever it takes to save lives. For if even one life is saved by our “agenda” we will have accomplished something important.

What we want is action- not thoughts and prayers. Check out the images below that were posted on Twitter feeds and Facebook yesterday.

garbage-truck

screenshot-2017-01-07-08-17-29

Responsible gun owners?

Clipboard with Rules And Regulations Concept. 3D.All gun owners should be responsible with their deadly weapons. Unfortunately for way too many victims, they are not. With rights come responsibilities but you wouldn’t know it by the actual incidents of gun deaths and injuries. And, of course, the dangerous and false insinuations and rhetoric coming through the corporate gun lobby makes the situation worse. 

Most countries recognize the dangers and risks of guns in the home and/or carrying loaded guns around in public. As a result, there are many laws and regulations making sure that those who do get permission to buy guns know what they are doing and are not those who shouldn’t be able to come near a firearm.

And gun deaths are few and far between in countries that have strong laws and regulations.

Not so in the good old U. S. of A. Shamefully and tragically, we let just about anyone buy and carry guns. What’s the big deal right? Until suddenly it is a big deal.

Take this one example ( and it IS just one of thousands). A Portland, Maine columnist and physician was showing a teen-ager his gun and is now dead as a result of his carelessness:

Harmon, a steadfast defender of gun rights and champion of conservative viewpoints, was a longtime Maine Sunday Telegram and Press Herald editor and columnist. He worked for the newspapers for 41 years before retiring in 2011, although he continued writing a weekly column.

The teenage boy and his father, both from North Berwick, were visiting Harmon’s home at the time of the shooting, police said. Detectives said they have been cooperating with the investigation and will be undergoing more questioning on Thursday.

Harmon’s wife, Margaret Harmon, declined Thursday to discuss details of the shooting, calling it an “accidental tragedy.”

There are no accidents when it comes to gunshot injuries. Or at least they should be at a minimum instead of almost every day stories in the news. Guns are the only product on the market designed specifically to kill another human being ( or an animal). What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

Actually most people do get it and want more strong regulations on gun owners and the guns themselves. They don’t want them taken away. They just don’t want people getting shot to death.

When there are so many guns around there will be so many gun deaths and injuries. This is not rocket science. It is real and it’s common sense. In this crazy and frightening world of fake news and denial of actual facts that make a difference to our health and well being, we just can’t afford to have irresponsibility with deadly weapons.

Until we change the conversation and make it perfectly clear to anyone who walks out of a gun shop that what they do with that gun could affect their own or someone else’s life forever, there will be irresponsible behavior with guns. But then, folks who get their guns on-line or at a gun store from a private seller don’t even undergo a Brady background check, for goodness sakes.

What kind of country and what kind of communities do we want? Do we want to excuse the death of a loved one because he/she was reckless or irresponsible with a gun and just say it was an accident so never mind?

Do we want shootings in our urban neighborhoods to become normalized and pretend there is nothing we can so let’s not? I don’t think so. Check out this article about the uptick of shootings in some Chicago neighborhoods:

“We should be embarrassed as a city, every single one of us, that we’ve allowed this city to become the poster boy of violence in America,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist and pastor of a Catholic church on the South Side. “Are we just going to shake our heads and say, ‘What a terrible year in Chicago?’”

Father Pfleger, who often spars with elected officials, said he was searching for fresh ways to draw attention to the plague of gun violence. He is planning a rally on Saturday on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a downtown avenue lined with high-end shops and restaurants, that will be attended by marchers carrying two-foot-high wooden crosses bearing the names of victims. Some victims’ relatives are expected to attend.

And yet, where is the shame? Where is the embarrassment? Where is the action? Where are the responsible gun owners and elected leaders?

Where is common sense?

Responsibility means passing laws that will keep us safer from gun violence. Responsibility means stronger regulations on people who can buy and own guns. Responsibility means not letting your brother have a gun if you know he is experiencing alcoholism, severe mental illness, a marriage or relationship break-up, anger or some other problem that may cause him to use a gun to “solve” whatever it is that is bothering him. Responsibility means safely storing guns away from the hands of small children and teens. Responsibility means making sure all who carry guns in public are regulated to make sure they are not prohibited persons and properly trained to carry  deadly weapon in public. Responsibility means stopping “bad apple” gun dealers from getting away with selling guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them. Responsibility means asking if there is an unlocked, loaded gun where your children play. Responsibility means not handling your gun inside of your house or letting someone else who doesn’t know anything much about guns handle one in your presence. Responsibility means knowing where your gun is at all times.

I know that our next President rails at rules and regulations. But they are there for a reason. Mostly it is for the health and safety of the public. Regulations on businesses are there so we don’t get screwed. Remember the financial crisis of 2008? I do. All too well. Regulations on energy companies are there so we don’t have the kind of pollution seen in Beijing almost every day. Regulations on speed limits, seat belts, air bags and other car safety measures are there to stop and lower injuries or deaths from auto accidents. Regulations about smoking in public places are there go protect us from deadly diseases. Regulations on poisons, outlet covers, cribs, toys and other products that could harm young children are there for a reason.

Without regulations, laws and rules, it’s a free for all. Leaving it up to private industry to regulate themselves only serves their own bottom line and interests. What happens to the rest of us?

The Trace has a year-end report with some gun violence statistics that should make everyone understand that we need to do much more about our gun culture and guns in our country. This publication is responsible for a good deal of research in the area of gun violence that others cannot or are not doing. If we are to do the responsible thing and try to prevent and reduce gun deaths and injuries, these are to what we need to turn our attention. There is no denying these facts:

We’re hungry for the data that can help us better understand gun violence in America, and when we find something that informs our thinking, we are eager to share it with our readers. Here are 10 facts and figures that helped shape our reporting this year.

You can read the ten facts, including about domestic gun violence and the effect on women, the effect of shootings on black communities, many Americans falsely think background checks are required on all gun sales, why people buy guns, etc.

Unless we are allowed and/or demand to have hearings and discuss this national public health tragedy, things will not change. You may remember that some Democrats in Congress held a sit-in last June to call attention to the fact that the Republicans had not allowed discussions or votes on gun violence prevention. The result?  A lot of attention to some brave leaders who actually went against the rules in desperation to try to get some new laws and regulations.

But the Republicans ( House Speaker Paul Ryan) want to silence them and any kind of protest regarding controversial issues. Shame on them. What goes around may come around. Representative Ryan doesn’t want a vote and he doesn’t apparently want to do anything about gun violence. He is willing to silence those who do. And those who ar making noise are speaking for those who have been silenced by a gun.

These same leaders have been shamelessly blocking the usual rules in the House and Senate for the last 8 years to try to keep President Obama from governing and doing something about gun violence and a whole lot of other important issues. I guess they only like their own rules.

Surely we are better than this. If you believe as I do that no one wants to be shot or have a loved one or good friend shot to death or injured, then you ought to be making noise and not being silent or being silenced.

Let’s get to work. Lives depend on it.

 

No more silence- remembering Sandy Hook

newtown-imageJust because @realDonaldTrump was elected to be our next President doesn’t mean the gun violence prevention groups are going away. In fact, they will be louder than ever. They must be because lives depend on it.

Gun violence will not stop. Mass shootings will continue. Our families and communities will not be safe from gun violence until we do the right thing.

26 children and educators are shot and Congress does nothing.

33,000 Americans will die every year unless Congress does the right thing.

No more silence.

Today is the 4th anniversary of what most can agree was the worst mass shooting in our country though it took fewer lives than some of the other mass shootings. You know what I’m talking about.

Sandy Hook, December 14, 2012.

20 first graders brutally shot to death and 6 educators who tried to protect them.

We should not have to protect our school children from gun massacres. America is unique in that we have more mass shootings than any other democratized country not at war. And when a mass shooting happens other countries with common sense do something to at least try to stop the next one. And in most cases, it has worked.

Of course. That is because common sense informs most of us. The fact that our Congress could not even pass a simple law to require background checks on all gun sales several months after the Sandy Hook shooting is a shameful and hideous black mark in our history.

So we are here again- mourning, lighting candles, speaking, singing, ringing bells, marching, writing emails and letters and making phone calls. Making noise.

There will be events all over the country today. You can check it out here. Newtown Action Alliance was formed after the Sandy Hook shooting and invites victims from all over the country to Washington D.C. for the national vigil. It is a sober and reflective day with tears and hugs. It is a remembrance of all victims of gun violence. It is a reminder that our leaders have not done the right thing.

It has been 4 years and yet our leaders have not done the right thing.

My local chapter viewed the award winning film, “Newtown” on Sunday. It was a powerful testament to the resilience and resolve of the survivors of that shooting. Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. Some choose to do so in silence. Some have become activists. None will ever be the same. And again, we see the ripple effect of gun violence in the Newtown community. Every one of our elected leaders should be required to view the film.

We rang the bell 26 times. We discussed what we will do next and why we haven’t done the right thing yet. The attendees were frustrated and puzzled. They want action. They want change. They want our leaders to do the right thing.

Today we will hold a candlelight vigil at a local church.

The sad thing is, that even if those leaders who are lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby did view the film, ring a bell, light a candle or attend a vigil, it may not crack through their refusal to buck the gun lobby to do the right thing. They know the right thing. Will they do the right thing?

Sigh.

The Brady Campaign has this to say about the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting:

“In the wake of this unthinkable tragedy, America demanded action from Congress. And when Congress failed to act, Americans took matters into their own hands. With a successful vote in Nevada this fall, seven states have expanded Brady background checks to all gun sales since the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary. Today, half of all Americans live in states where Brady background checks are ensuring felons, domestic abusers, and dangerously mentally ill people can’t buy guns. We’ll continue this state-by-state march until Congress steps up and finishes the job for all Americans.

“Some in the gun lobby’s world might see Newtown’s tragedy, and others since, to be the unavoidable consequences of ‘doing business’ today. We don’t accept that. The Brady Campaign and an overwhelming majority of the American people have a different vision, and we’re not giving up. Buoyed by four years of inspired progress, we fight on to make this the better, safer nation that the children and educators we honor today deserved.”

The American people want Congress and state legislators to listen to them and do the right thing. 

But will they?

Will they read these names and see these photos today?

remember-newtown-ct

In memory:

1. Charlotte Bacon (DOB 2/22/06)

2. Daniel Barden (9/25/05)

3. Rachel Davino (7/17/83)

4. Olivia Engel (7/18/06)

5. Josephine Gay (12/11/05)

6. Ana M. Marquez-Greene (4/4/06)

7. Dylan Hockley (3/8/06)

8. Dawn Hocksprung (6/28/65)

9. Madeleine F. Hsu (7/10/06)

10. Catherine V. Hubbard (6/8/06)

11. Chase Kowalski (10/31/05)

12. Jesse Lewis (6/30/06)

13. James Mattioli (3/22/06)

14. Grace McDonnell (11/04/05)

15. AnneMarie Murphy (07/25/60)

16. Emilie Parker (5/12/06)

17. Jack Pinto (5/6/06)

18. Noah Pozner (11/20/06)

19. Caroline Previdi (9/7/06)

20. Jessica Rekos (5/10/06)

21. Avielle Richman (10/17/06)

22. Lauren Russeau (6/1982)

23. Mary Sherlach (2/11/56)

24. Victoria Soto (11/4/85)

25. Benjamin Wheeler (9/12/06)

26. Allison N. Wyatt (7/3/06)

 

No more silence. Listen to our voices. Look at the photos. Read the names. Hear our stories.

Do the right thing.

#endgunviolence

#honorwithaction