Knives, tusks, guns and terror attacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t make this stuff up.

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

Stunning.

#DoSomething

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

perpetrated by someone who displayed prior warning signs;

intermingled with acts of domestic violence; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have a serious unsolved problem.

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

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

We are better than this. Where is common sense?

Hopeful and thankful

As bleak as things seem right now in our country, I have hope that common sense will win over corruption, gun violence, climate change denial, affordable health care opponents and the many other politically charged issues of our time. In the end, right usually wins but it is going to take a lot of hard work.

Something interesting is happening now. The latest polling on impeachment shows a difference between men and women when it comes to support for it.

And the poll marks the first time that more than 60% of women have said they backed impeaching Trump and removing him from office (61% say so now, compared with 56% in October and 51% in May), even as a majority of men remain opposed to impeachment (53% oppose it).

In my opinion women look at verbal abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, gun violence, the economy, family leave, affordable child care, corruption, health care, freedom to choose, and a myriad of other problems to solve differently from men. That is because they are much more often the victims than men. Inequality has a way of changing your life view. Minority groups of all kinds understand that perfectly well.

The day after President Trump was inaugurated I participated in the Women’s March, sitting on a bus from Duluth to DC and back to make my voice heard. Along with more than a million others- mostly women but also men and children, we let America know that we were not in support of a man who exhibited bullying, boorish, abusive and intolerant behavior during the campaign and still, to this day.

According to what I have seen the Women’s March organization, going strong still after the March in January of 2017. Watch for more in the coming weeks.

Also going strong is March For Our Lives, formed after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2017. Their Facebook and Twitter feeds are active with thousands of supporters. And the members, some whose names are better known than others, have written a plan for Congress to enact on gun safety reform. It is called a Peace Plan for a Safer America. The name of their plan says it all. There is hope when our young people can write legislation for a safer America that is better and more comprehensive than the adults have come up so far.

Gun violence prevention groups are stronger than ever making a big difference in the lives of Americans and also on the political scene. Brady and Moms Demand Action and Giffords canvassed in the state of Virginia in the 2019 recent election that turned the legislature blue. Candidates were endorsed and campaign contributions came from individuals and groups alike. It worked. It is one of the first times the gun lobby has been outspent and out maneuvered. There is hope.

Businesses have stepped up to the plate as they have watched our kids and communities experience horrendous mass shootings. Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault rifles and the business is booming. This is totally contrary to the corporate gun lobby mantra that gun sales are necessary for businesses to make a profit. The corporate nature of the corporate gun lobby is not doing so well with their messaging. Not selling guns sends a message that some people just don’t want to buy them and don’t feel comfortable when a store is selling them.

After the shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart, a decision was made to stop selling ammunition for assault style rifles and handguns. ( they had previously stopped selling assault rifles). And open carriers of guns are not welcome in their stores. That is a good move considering how many “accidental” gun discharges have happened inside of Walmart stores. What is it with Walmart stores and guns? There was just a recent shooting at a Walmart in Oklahoma leaving 3 dead. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Other businesses have stood up to the perceived power and control of the gun lobby by saying they don’t want people openly carrying their loaded guns inside. Shoppers really don’t want to see people with guns while they are just running errands, often with their children. Here is a list of those who have decided that guns inside are not a great idea for their business. The logic of the gun rights advocates isn’t making much sense any more since we understand that a gun in a business or school is more likely to be used against those inside than in self defense but never mind- some believe their gun must be at the ready at all times no matter what they are doing. From the article:

“With this world being the way it is, we’ve got to protect ourselves,” said Howard, who worked as a construction supervisor until he broke his back on the job 15 years ago. “I haven’t had to shoot anybody yet, but you never know. I’ve keep a fire extinguisher in my house even though I’ve never had to use it.”

The thing is, the world in America has regular shootings that could not have been prevented by having a gun on your person. The mistake they are making is the assumption they will have time to plan to shoot someone who opens fire suddenly in a public place with absolutely no warning and no time to act. It’s a myth. See my post about this- 16 seconds with a gun.

Health care providers have stepped up to say: #ThisIsOurLane after the NRA had the nerve to tell them that they should stay in their lane regarding gun violence prevention. In other words, don’t talk to patients about the risks of guns to their health and well being. Physicians and other health care providers were having none of it and decided to fight back. It is their lane, of course, but never mind- the NRA doesn’t want anyone interfering in their desire to normalize guns, carrying of guns in public and, apparently shootings.

But some don’t want us to feel hopeful. The NRA and corporate gun lobby keeps pounding the drum of fear and paranoia about any gun safety reform. Gun sales have gone down because Donald Trump, as President, is not going to take away their guns like Obama did. Remember when he did that?

Back to my first thoughts about women wanting the changes we deserve and the nation we ought to have- without fear of being shot, abused, left without economic security, there is discussion in the article about economic prosperity and that Americans are feeling good about the economy while at the same time so many are sleeping on the streets and not able to take care of their families adequately:

In his Thanksgiving proclamation for 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed gratitude for the nation’s turn “to things spiritual” in the previous year. “We can truly say, ‘What profiteth it a nation if it gain the whole world and lose its own soul?’ ” FDR wrote.

That was in the depths of the Great Depression, and Roosevelt was the incumbent. The task facing Roosevelt’s political heirs is to make the case that the same principle applies during times of plenty.

When it comes to gun violence, we have lost many souls in senseless acts of violence. We have also lost our soul in the seeming acceptance and refusal to do anything about the moral crisis and national epidemic of gun violence. Those of us who care about gun violence and have experienced the death of someone close to us have volunteered and worked tirelessly to make change happen. To some extent we have succeeded. The conversation has changed. Just as it did about auto safety and bans on smoking in public places, the majority of Americans get that something must be done.

More states have passed background check, Extreme Risk Protection Orders and other laws that have reduced some of the violence. But we are not doing enough. Decades of listening to the NRA and allowing them to shape the conversation has led to a country where gun violence is actually on the rise and mass shootings are happening with increasing regularity. As that happens the public is becoming more supportive of doing something about it as the lapdog politicians for the gun lobby dig in and stand firm against all odds.

Times are changing. I still have hope. I am thankful for my family- for my grandchildren who so far have been safe from tragedy. My family, like many others, have suffered from suicide, homicide, divorces, and minor difficulties that, in the long term, have made us stronger. We carry on because we have hope and love.

I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all. And I do mean that. For some odd ( and cynical) reason President Trump seems to think us “liberals” are at war with Thanksgiving. Not me. He is making it up to drive another wedge between us. Thanksgiving is no time to do that. Let’s just enjoy the holiday and each other.

This holiday time of the year is difficult for families sensing the missed presence of a loved one or a friend and that empty chair that should have been for their son, daughter, mother, father, grandchild.

We are better than this. We are resilient. We will pass stronger gun laws. I have hope that our young people will lead the charge. And when women are put in charge of things, a different view prevails and we move towards more peaceful solutions to our problems. We will deal with a corrupt President now under impeachment. Our democracy is under attack but so far has held. We must make sure it stays that way. We will resist and persist.

A historic day

On this day in 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated. I will never forget that day and the days that followed. In my home town, anyway, the news flew around fast. School was dismissed and I think there was no school for quite a few days afterward as the nation was in mourning. Still sticking in my mind is sitting with my parents watching the T.V. in our living room when Jack Ruby shot and killed the shooter on live TV before our very eyes. I always remember my sister letting out a scream of disbelief. We had never seen anything like this before on live T.V.- only in movies and T.V. shows.

How times have changed. We now see shootings on live T.V. and the coverage of them almost 24 hours a day. President Kennedy’s shooting shocked us all. These things don’t happen in America. Could Oswald have been a legal purchaser of a gun? He ordered it from a mail order catalog:

 Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, with a mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 millimeter bolt-action rifle, for which he paid $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

Fifty years later, obtaining guns via mail is less common because the U.S. Postal Service imposes major restrictions on firearms shipments.

But despite a myriad of federal and state laws regulating gun transactions, buying a firearm via the Internet is commonplace.

Where Oswald mailed his money order with a coupon torn from an ad in the National Rifle Association‘s American Rifleman magazine, troubled individuals today can search online and similarly get their hands on powerful weapons with no questions asked, gun control advocates claim.

Even back then the NRA was involved in gun deaths though they were still doing more reasonable things like supporting hunters and teaching gun safety classes. I imagine there weren’t as many people then to worry about ordering a bolt action rifle because we just didn’t have mass shootings then. Now we have military style assault rifles available at places like Armslist.com so just about anyone can get their hands on one of these weapons of mass destruction with no background check.

By the way, when I googled Armslist I took a look at the front page. Here is the problem. There is a photo of a gun that looks sort of like a military pistol- maybe a semi-automatic? held by a guy wearing gloves. The wording on the photo goes like this: ” GEAR FOR YOUR DAILY GUNFIGHT”.

Really? This is the difference between 1963 and today.

Right.

The article about Kennedy’s assassination (above) was written in 2013 and 7 years later, nothing has changed. Let’s remember that since Robert Kennedy, President Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated in 1968 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries than all American military members who have died in an American war combined. Stunning.

Now the country mourns shootings of famous people, shootings of relatives and friends, suicide deaths of Veterans, farmers, police officers, “accidental” shootings of children, mass shootings at schools and malls and domestic murders like the one that took the life of my sister.

American Presidents are much more protected now than in 1963. The Secret Service has increased in numbers and the type of protection they provide. Cars outfitted with armour and other protections are taken so a President’s life is not in as much danger. The armoured vehicle used is actually called “The Beast”. Still though, I worry that no matter who our President is, all it takes is one person bent on doing harm with a gun easily obtained to change history.

Back to President Kennedy’s assassination. As with all gun deaths, life changes irreversibly. His family was never the same. They remained in the limelight. Jackie Kennedy could hardly live her life and eventually, of course married Aristotle Onassis, an unlikely match for her. And tragically the young John Kennedy died in an airplane crash in 1999. The Kennedy family suffered a lot of losses and still the younger generations are into politics, causes and sometimes trouble.

Today we remember the lost potential of the life of John F. Kennedy. We will never know what he could have accomplished or if he would have won re-election and make further contributions to our country. Looking back, we now see a man who was in almost constant pain that he didn’t show. We also know of his affairs about which some knew but have now been revealed. He was an imperfect man. He was an imperfect President.

But because he died so young and so tragically, there is a fairy tale aspect to his life and his legacy. Today we remember his life and his Presidency and understand that since 1963, no other President has been killed by gunfire but attempts have been made on several Presidents including famously on the life of President Reagan which led eventually to the passing of the Brady Law. Jim Brady, then President Reagan’s press secretary was badly injured and lived his life changed forever by a bullet. He and his wife Sarah worked tirelessly to pass the Brady bill into law and finally in 1993 it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

A gun was used also to threaten the life of President Gerald Ford.

One would think that after this violent history of gun violence in America we would have the common sense to pass much stronger gun laws. But such is not the case.

I have hope that in time the majority will win and laws to prevent gun violence will pass in the U.S. Congress and be signed into law by a President who cares more for saving lives than saving his (her) own political skin.

16 seconds with a gun

From the Gun Violence Archive Facebook page

Another teen-ager got his hand on a gun he should not have had and came to his school to shoot some of his classmates. It’s an all too familiar scenario that plays out regularly in America. He shot himself with the gun only after shooting 5 kids and now 2 of those kids are dead. He is in grave condition in the hospital.

For what? Why? Where did he get the gun? He was 15- or I should say that according to media reports he turned 16 today. Happy birthday.

The media reported about the shooting and the usual “experts” were invited to talk about the shooting. Some of them actually mentioned that easy access to guns is one very huge factor in school shootings. But many avoided speaking the word “guns”. It is the guns. Most school shooters get their guns from home but we will find out more about where this teen got his gone as more information becomes available. This article reports that there were guns in the home. The gun was a .45 semi-automatic pistol. From the first article linked above:

A lack of gun safety at home also has played a big role in school shootings. Guns in the home “is a very important element that has been lost in the current debate,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and FBI consultant. He sees the problem in the combination of a troubled adolescent, unsecured firearms, general disorganization at home, and “then you increase the risk, of course, of him being able to easily access a weapon.

The shooter’s father died 2 years ago presumably leaving his guns behind. We don’t yet have information about how those guns were stored or who was in possession of the guns in the home. But from the article we learn this: ” Law enforcement officials have not shared any information about how the suspected shooter obtained the gun used in Thursday’s assault. The 16-year-old couldn’t have legally bought it himself: In California, licensed dealers cannot sell a firearm to anyone under age 21.”

Safe storage of guns is a no brainer. Making sure kids who may be experiencing problems of some kind can’t access guns is another. Brady’s End Family Fire is a program to highlight the risks of guns in homes:

Family fire is preventable, and that’s exactly what our End Family Fire initiative aims to do. Brady’s End Family Fire initiative is designed to drive social change and save lives, educating and encouraging gun owners about safe gun storage. We believe ending family fire is in our hands to solve. We’re calling on gun owners and non-gun owners alike to unite—to talk about safe storage practices, save lives, and End Family Fire once and for all.

In this case family fire includes a gun allegedly taken from the family home where it was not safely stored and brought somewhere else to shoot people.

One parent in the linked story above said what is always said:” It’s stressful and overwhelming.” That it is. More kids and families grieving. More with PTSD. In the article about the shooter and the guns, here is a quote: “He doesn’t seem like the kind of kid to do this,” Risley said.”

That is often said as well about mass shooters or any shooter. It was said about my now deceased former brother-in-law after he shot and killed my sister.

There is no common sense when it comes to trying to understand these kind of shootings or any shootings actually. One of the things in common is a gun. Easy access to guns. The other is, from the article above:

There have already been at least 30 resulting in death or injury in 2019

I was just made aware this article from the Washington Post that I wanted my readers to see:

The shooting is at least the seventh to take place on U.S. school grounds since the start of the academic year, according to a Washington Post analysis, and the first fatal shooting on a campus since students arrived back at school. More than 233,000 schoolchildren have been exposed to gun violence at their own schools since the shooting at Columbine High in 1999.

More than 233,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine

“We need to say ‘no more.’ This is a tragic event that happens too frequently,” said Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “When are we going to come together as a community … to say ‘no more’?”

The thing is, we have come together to say “no more”. But our leaders are not listening. They refuse to take up meaningful legislation that would save lives. The fact that 90% of Americans agree on this is stunning. We are polarized about just about everything. The fact that our leaders represent the very small group of gun rights advocates and right wing extremists falsely saying that anything we do to save lives from gun violence would take away their rights or their guns is a sham and a travesty. It is am American tragedy.

And one more thing about this shooting that must be said- these type of shootings happen with so much shock, surprise and rapidity that it is almost impossible to respond. The fact that the gun jammed saved lives and the fact that law enforcement was there so quickly also saved lives. But think about the time it took to wreak such deadly havoc:

At an early evening news conference, authorities said just 16 seconds passed from the time the shooter drew his gun and when he shot himself. They said that the shooting was contained to the quad and that they had no information about a connection between the shooter and his victims.

More from the article:

“When I was in the situation, I didn’t feel scared, and that’s the saddest part,” Carzola said. “I felt like everyone was going to go through this at some point and this was my turn.”

When is it your child’s “turn”? Why is it any child’s turn?

Our kids should not have to live like this every day. Nor should their parents or their communities. There is a ripple effect that gets wider and wider as relatives of victims, law enforcement, health care providers, emergency responders and others all feel the awful and devastating effects of just one of these shootings.

UPDATE:

As always happens after mass shootings, the situation is fluid and more information comes forward. We now know that the shooter died of his self inflicted gunshot injuries. We also now know that a teacher used a gunshot injury kit that was in her classroom to likely save the life of one of the injured students. It’s come to this. Rather than protect our precious kids from shooters by preventing easy access to guns we are distributing kits to stem the flow of blood from the bodies of said precious kids. We have it all backwards. Thanks NRA.

We also now know the names of the shooter ( which I will not post or say) and the victims who died. Say their names.

Dominic Blackwell. Age 14.

Gracie Anne Muehlberger. Age 16

Their images will forever be stopped in time as was my sister’s and they will never grow older or reach their potential.

In memory of Dominic and Gracie.

End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.

Halloween 2019 was deadly

It was a scary Halloween this year. 4 are dead and more injured at a Halloween party at an Airbnb. Who brings guns to a Halloween party and why?:

“The killings shocked neighbors and residents in Orinda, where homicides are especially rare. The last killing in the small East Bay city about 15 miles east of San Francisco was in 2012, when a man hacked his girlfriend to death with a machete. Before that, the city’s only other homicide this century was in 2002, when Susan Polk killed her estranged psychotherapist husband.

Now that is ghoulish.

But this was yet another mass shooting. It may have been domestic in nature but we don’t know that yet. The thing is, after shootings like this, it is often noted that the community is a quiet community where shootings and violence don’t happen. We can’t say that anymore because shootings happen anywhere there are people who decide to bring guns with them or where people have guns in their homes. More guns means more shootings and we have more guns than ever now which means we have more shootings and more deaths than ever.

In another Halloween shooting a little 7 year old girl dressed in a bumblebee costume was shot by a “stray” bullet meant for someone else as she was trick or treating in the Chicago area. Don’t people with guns know that there are small kids out and about on the streets on Halloween Eve when they decide to bring their guns to the streets to do whatever they do with them? Also if the person who shot the gun was a “responsible” gun owner, why shoot bullets when you know they very well may not hit their target? And why have a target anyway? Why do people want to kill each other with bullets? What’s all the anger about? Why should Americans have to experience this level of violence in their neighborhoods? Why aren’t we doing anything about it?

From the article:

“Obviously the little girl wasn’t the target. We think two gangs were having a dispute and one of them shot at the other,” Johnson told reporters Friday morning. “She just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She was actually in the right place at the right time. It was the shooter(s) who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They always are. And further, from the article:

“Those involved don’t deserve to be in our city,” he said. “I’m disgusted but committed to doing everything we can to find the cowards that would engage in a gun battle during the early evening hours while children are trick or treating.”

It’s the guns. These gang members could have had a fist fight and it would not have ended in this kind of tragedy. Even a knife fight would not have ended this way. But they have chosen guns because they know that guns kill. Where is common sense?

The answer is simple. Guns kill people. They are designed to kill people and kill they do at an alarming rate. When Americans are convinced that they need their guns for self protection ( since that seems to be the reason) this is the consequence. A gun bought ( or stolen or bought in a straw purchase or on the streets) is more likely to be used in a shooting of someone you know or love than to be used for self protection.

Unfortunately for that 7 year old who is in critical condition and for the 4 killed in an Airbnb senselessly it’s too late to have this discussion. And until we do something about the shootings it will be too late for thousands of Americans.

But it’s not too late for us to demand that our leaders #DoSomething about gun violence. Apparently President Trump has given up any pretense ( and it was pretense all along) of any further progress towards stemming the tide of gun violence. Shame on him and the Republicans who refuse to deal with the daily carnage.:

“A lot of the people who put me where I am are strong believers in the 2nd Amendment, and I am also,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.Then he argued that any efforts to restrict gun sales would inevitably lead to confiscation of privately owned weapons from law-abiding citizens, although no one has proposed that drastic remedy on Capitol Hill.“They call it the slippery slope,” he said. “And all of a sudden everything gets taken away. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Wrong. This is such nonsense and gun lobby lying and paranoia. What is taken away are people’s lives. And if does not want to alienate his base, what about the loved ones of gun violence victims? Why doesn’t he care if he alienates them? Because……. NRA……. money………he’s a chicken.

The gun advocates often criticize gang gun violence and Chicago for all of the shootings. Yes. Chicago has shootings but their crime rate and gun death rate are down. Other cities are experiencing a lot of gun violence like Minneapolis and St Paul. The thing is, what are these critics willing to do about all of the violence? Don’t they really care that when gang members get guns they kill not only themselves but often innocent victims? They are chickens.

The gang members who shot the bullet that ended in the neck of a 7 year old are chickens. They don’t have a way to solve their problems without hiding behind a gun? Trump can’t deal with gun violence without hiding behind lies and gun lobby deceptions? What are these people afraid of? They have no courage or common sense. They are hiding behind their masks of cowardice and complicity with a small minority of voters, a corrupt NRA and the gun manufacturers. They think they are protecting themselves and their own election chances and reputations. They should be protecting us from daily shootings.

Our voices need to be loud and clear about who are the brave ones and who are the bullies and the chickens. We must call them out for their profiles in cowardice.

Remembering the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting

Today is the anniversary of one of our nation’s ugliest hate crimes- the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh one year ago today. It is yet one more anniversary of a heinous mass shooting where Americans are reminded of the easy access to guns to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Only in America does this happen on an almost daily basis. In fact there really isn’t one day of the year when there is not an anniversary of a mass shooting.

But I digress. A hate crime against one group, one religion, one political group, one group based on sexual preference, etc. is un American and our own brand of terrorism. That day one year ago, it was Jews who were the target of a gunman:

Mr. Leger was the most visibly wounded that morning of Oct. 27, 2018, when a gunman killed 11 Jews and wounded other worshipers and police officers at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue building in Squirrel Hill. Among the dead were members of all three congregations sharing the building — New Light, Tree of Life and Mr. Leger’s own Dor Hadash.

The victims were Tree of Life members Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, husband and wife Sylvan Simon, 86, and Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg, Joyce Fineberg, 75, of Oakland, Irving Younger, 69, of Mount Washington, brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill and David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill; New Light Congregation members Melvin Wax, 87, of Squirrel Hill, Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross; and Congregation Dor Hadash member Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood.

There were several memorials in Duluth after this shooting- one outdoors with the community and a bell ringing naming each victim. The other took place a few days later at our local synagogue with an interdenominational service in the small space crammed with community members and leaders. Both were touching reminders of how the Jewish community is affected by hate and threats to their existence.

The shooter used the weapon of choice for mass shootings- an AR-15, was anti-Semitic and had posted on a social media site about his hate for Jews. From this entry in Wikipedia:

The immediate rise in the months of August to October was connected to the 2018 US midterm elections,[35] with a similar rise having occurred during the 2016 US election,[30] with the midterms being a “rallying point” for far-right extremists to organize efforts to spread antisemitism among the populace online.[31] The intervening years between 2016 and 2018 saw rising indicators of antisemitism in American public life, including a 57% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2017[33][32] in context of rising hate crimes against other groups including Muslims and African Americans as reported by the FBI,[33] a wave of vandalizations of hundreds of Jewish gravestones in Pennsylvania and Missouri,[31] and a doubling of antisemitic incidents on university campuses.[34] In 2017, the widely publicized Charlottesville riots featured Nazi symbolssalutes, and the slogan “Blood and Soil“,[34] amid explicit and implicitly racist and antisemitic rhetoric. Online, the reports found a large proportion of the antisemitic material was spread through the medium of conspiracy theories concerning wealthy Jewish individuals including billionaire George Soros, with Columbia University’s Jon Albright claiming these represented the “worst sample” of all the hate speech he had seen on Instagram.[30]

Do I have to remind my readers that the 2020 election is about one year away? Do I have to remind my readers that our very own President engages in the language of hate and violence in general and demeans his opponents, the media, anyone who disagrees with him, calling them names and intimating that violence might just be OK? And so, some of his followers actually may take action. Pray for a peaceful and safe election.

One such recent example came from a major league baseball umpire – one of Trump’s followers, who made a threat on social media about using his gun to shoot people if Trump should be impeached:

Drake posted this message to Twitter on Tuesday: “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020”

Drake later deleted the post.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Drake apologized to victims of gun violence, fellow umpires and his family, and acknowledged he had caused a controversy for MLB.

His apology seemed insincere to me. It’s too late once those words have been written. We understand exactly what he meant. An AR-15 is the weapon of choice for mass shooters. He just may have done this had he not been called out publicly and he should be watched closely just in case. Now he has tainted his own career and reputation and also his own family and the umpires’ league.

This- all because of hate of others. This- all because we have no common sense when it comes to restricting the sale of assault rifles or checking to make sure that everyone can pass a background check. This- America the violent.

And of course, there was another mass shooting last night at a party to celebrate the homecoming at Texas A&M. “Only” 2 are dead but 12 injured. Good grief. Young adults and teens can’t celebrate parties without gunfire and death? From the article:

Authorities believe the shooter may have been targeting just one person at the party of about 750 people outside Greenville, 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of a satellite campus of the Texas A&M University System, and that others may have been shot at random, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said. Authorities were still looking for the suspect, Meeks said, and had not yet identified him.

This happens far too often as it did in my sister’s shooting- one person was the target but often others are also shot just because they happened to be there and because it can be done so easily with guns as the weapon.

Today we remember the victims of one hate crime. Others followed including the shooting at Poway Synagogue in April of 2019 leaving one dead and three injured. Take a guess at the weapon used. If you guessed an AR-15 you are right.

And this, dear readers, is why many of us want an assault weapons ban. It is getting harder and harder to defend the use of these types of guns for any purpose other than killing many people at a time.

I will leave you with this- we are better than this. It is in our hands to stop the carnage. So let’s do something about this and demand that our leaders do the same. I don’t know how many more will be killed before we get this right and neither do you. It can and does happen anywhere.

Hate crimes are on the rise. Domestic terrorist shootings are on the rise:

It’s time to dismantle the artificial legal wall between domestic and international terrorism. Violent ideology that’s headed toward violent action and facilitated by websites, blogs, chat rooms, or other forums needs to be addressed regardless of its origins in racism, hate, religion and left or right-wing extremism. Let’s have one law that treats all violent ideologies the same and makes acting on those ideologies a crime.

This is the United States of America. We can’t let this continue as is. What is happening to our country? Please join me in doing everything you can do to stop and prevent hate crimes, domestic terrorism, domestic shootings, suicides, “accidental” shootings that occur in large numbers in America.

And remember the victims and survivors on this mournful day of remembrance. Say their names. None of them or their families and the community will ever be the same.

Gun laws in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia

I will be on a river cruise on the Danube river for the next few weeks. I wrote before about a previous Danube river cruise and the gun laws in the countries along the way. Three of those countries (Austria, Hungary and Croatia) we will visit again on this trip. But now I want to write about the other countries that I have not visited before- Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.

Let’s start with Serbia which has experienced a lot of violence in various wars over the decades and centuries. It turns out that there are a lot of legal and illegal guns in Serbia according to this article:

No one knows just how many illegal weapons Serbians are hiding in their homes. Even authorities give vague estimates, ranging anywhere from 200,000 to 900,000. Experts suggest that those numbers are conservative. The weapons concerned are handguns, assault rifles, bombs – even anti-tank grenades. Add to that another 1 million legally registered sport and hunting firearms, as well as yet another 1 million weapons in the hands of the army, police and private security companies. The internet portal gunpolicy.org estimates that the United States is the only country in the world that has more guns per capita than Serbia.

Most of the weapons are leftovers from the bloody wars that raged in the 1990s after the fall of Yugoslavia – in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Not even the regular armies bothered to bureaucratically administer the inventories of their arsenals back then. When violence erupted, mercenaries and those with a desire to fight arrived on the scene, and no questions were asked. After the wars, some 4 million illegal guns were said to have remained in circulation in the seven republics of the former Yugoslavia – most of them in Serbia.

And more about the culture of guns in Serbia:

A poll conducted by another Belgrade NGO, the Public Policy Research Center, found that 70 percent of Serbs in fact felt safe in their homeland. Not because they believed the country’s institutions or security apparatus would protect them, but because they felt that they themselves, neighbors or friends could. “Of course people should be able to have guns, too bad we can’t have more of them. Do you want an unarmed and defenseless citizenry, so you can do whatever you want with them?” read a recent comment from a reader at DW’s Serbian Facebook page. Hundreds more comments were of a similar opinion.

Yet the news tells a different story: One searches in vain to find examples of people successfully fending off attackers or stopping crimes with handguns. Rather, one sees daily tabloid headlines and lots of stories about murders and occasional shooting sprees. In July, an incident in the northern Serbian village of Zitiste shocked the nation: A jealous husband killed his ex-wife and four others in a bar, injuring another 22 people in the process. Had he not had an illegal firearm at home, the night certainly would not have been so gruesome. But he did – and that firearm was an AK-47 assault rifle.

Sounds familiar.

The annual rate of gun deaths in Serbia according to gunpolicy.org is 3.23 per 100,000 ( 2015) The total number of gun deaths in 2015 was 232- 154 of which were suicides. Regulations are strict, including registration and restrictions on private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic guns. But according to the article above, there are many illegally owned and unregistered guns in Serbia.

Now let’s move to Romania. The laws are very restrictive not allowing private ownership of handguns. Only long guns for hunting are legal in Romania. There were 27 gun deaths in 2016 which is a rate of .13 per 100,000. So two countries as close as Serbia and Romania have very different laws and very different outcomes. Of he 27 deaths, 12 were suicides.

And now, Bulgaria. From the same source as the above link, in 2014 there were 108 gun deaths, with a rate of 1.51 per 100,000. 53 of the total number of gun deaths in Bulgaria in 2014 were suicides. Licensing is required for all guns owned, including automatic, semi-automatic and handguns. In order to get a license to buy and own a gun, the purchaser must provide a reason for needing a gun.

In the U.S. the rate of gun deaths per 100,000 is 12.21. We know that compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war, our gun death rate is right at the top. Our laws are right at the bottom.

When I compare the gun laws in other countries as I travel, what I find is that inevitably where there are more guns and looser laws, there are more gun deaths. This should come as no surprise to anyone. More guns do not make people safer. The opposite happens to be true. The corporate gun lobby loves to tell us that we all need guns to keep us safer. Why would they not? We know that the gun industry benefits when people are paranoid and filled with fear. If people are led to believe that guns will make them safer, they may just go and buy one, or two or many. Unfortunately, too many people suffer death and injury as a result and we end up being one of the deadliest countries in the world.

Who else has the rate of mass shootings that we have experienced in America? The link here points to the deadly phenomenon of American mass shootings since 1966 noting that the rate has increased in the past decade. The age of the shooters has become younger. From the article:

Although the data goes back to 1966, nearly a third of the 1,196 total victims have died since Charleston, and the two deadliest shootings in U.S. history fall into that time frame.

In October 2017, a 64-year-old gambler with a cache of high-powered rifles fired from his Las Vegas hotel room window and shot 480 people in a country music festival below. Fifty-eight of them died.

Less than 15 months earlier, a security company employee killed 49 and wounded 53 in a gay nightclub in Orlando, the second-highest toll.

The 169 shooters ranged in age from 11 to 73, but they were mostly young to middle-aged men, and they have trended still younger recently. Shooters before Charleston averaged just under 34 years old; from Charleston to the present, they have averaged 32 years old. (…)

While there may be trends in the types of places targeted, the geography remains unpredictable. Mass shootings have occurred all over the country, in red and blue and purple states, in huge metropolises, medium-sized cities and tiny rural towns.

I just know we will be safer in the countries we will be visiting- at least from bullets. Travel is always risky. But I know that since we are doing little or nothing to keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them another 1000 plus Americans will die from gunshot injuries while I am gone.

It’s hard to ignore what is going on back home while traveling and a lot is going on right now. But hopefully we can enjoy this area of southeast Europe and the history of the countries we will visit. Many of the countries along the Danube have experienced mass deaths and violence in the wars that have ravaged their countries over the decades. It’s hard to forget the early 1990s when the area in what was Yugoslavia left millions dead. And certainly the 2 world wars affected Romania and Bulgaria in ways it is hard for us to understand here.

It is a complicated area with a lot of interesting and controversial history.

We have a lot of work to do in the U.S. regarding gun safety reform and keeping our democracy safe from an authoritarian leaning President in the midst of an impeachment investigation. We should all be alarmed that our own President is threatening armed insurrection when he tweeted that there will be a Civil War if he is impeached. We all know what that means. And we get a view into his twisted mind when he suggested that immigrants should be shot in the legs to slow them down.

We have our own complicated problems and our history books will in the decades to come have chapters about our mass shootings and a President who used violent rhetoric to foment his base.

We are better than this.

Shootings at football games

School has started and so has the school shooting season. If kids are in school, in America we know that means kids will be shot. What a sorry state of affairs. This is #NOTNORMAL; except that it is. It’s Homecoming season as well so in Duluth the local high schools and colleges are celebrating at football games.

The thing is, every week since school has started again there has been a shooting at or near a football game. The fifth one just happened.

For at least the fifth week in a row, a shooting has taken place during a high school football game.
Two teens injured in Philadelphia are the latest victims in a string of shootings that have taken place at or near high school football games across the country. (…) The sound of the gunshots sent people running across the field as the P.A. announcer called on spectators to evacuate.

Just look at the photo in the linked article above and you will see the panic as the crowd was told to get out of the stadium. This is America. Football is like Apple Pie and mothers- very popular in our country- just like music concerts, shopping malls, attending church, schools, grocery stores and just hanging out with friends and family.

So I have a question. Where are all of these guns coming from that end up in the hands of our children and others who should not be anywhere near guns? Maybe they fall from the sky? I just read this great article in response to a tweet made by former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. First here is the tweet:

screen shot of actual tweet from Twitter

From the article:

“BEHOLD,” said a thundering voice from a cloud. (Madison had resumed taking his notes at this point, which is how we know this.) The heavens parted. An enormous hand stretched forth, holding a mysterious black object, long and pointed like a stick.
“I’M GIVING YOU THIS,” the hand said. “A GIFT, FROM ME TO YOU, THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY.”

Today is Sunday. Many Christians attend church on this day. They sing. They worship. They give thanks. They raise concerns about the world. They listen to sermons and they socialize. Do any of these people thank God for guns? Apparently some actually believe this nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense before I circle back to football games and guns, I had a conversation this week with a man who shall not be named about how guns make it into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. His thesis is that background checks won’t stop the guns that are used in crime and shootings. (even though since the Brady Law has prevented the sale of over 3 million guns to prohibited purchasers since it was enacted).

To continue with this idea that background checks are ineffective he proclaimed that most crime guns are stolen. He was right about that one according to this article from Everytown:

Estimates from various sources suggest that between 200,000 and 500,000 guns are stolen from individuals each year.1 The most recent nationally representative survey found that approximately 380,000 guns are stolen from private gun owners every year.2
Gun owners were three times more likely to have a gun stolen if they carried a gun in the last month compared to gun owners who did not carry.3
Research suggests that nearly one-quarter of stolen guns are taken from cars and other vehicles.4,5
In addition to theft from private owners, approximately 18,700 firearms are reported lost or stolen from licensed gun dealers each year, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).6

We did not discuss further this stolen gun thing and what we can do about it. Since most of the stolen guns come from law abiding gun owners, it’s time for them to admit that they could be contributing to the problem of crime guns. Safe storage is key to this. When more guns are owned, more will be stolen. More guns are not making us safer if they are not secured safely away from kids and others who can’t handle them. The result is school shootings, suicides, homicides and “accidental” shootings many by children who find unsecured guns in their own homes.

End Family Fire is a program to educate gun owners about the risk of guns in homes. ASK is a program that encourages parents to ask if there are unsecured loaded guns in homes where their children and teens play and hang out.

And crime guns that come from a small percentage of gun dealers who are not following codes of conduct and the law are a problem. Brady is working on that one.

There are solutions to many of the shootings that happen everywhere in America. They are in front of us but not much is being done about this epidemic of shootings. In fact it is in our hands and the hands of our elected leaders to pass laws and start changing the conversation about the dangers of guns in our communities.

And finally, the man from my conversation claimed, as do many gun rights activists, that crime guns are coming across our southern border from Mexico. This one really bothers me a lot because it is so untrue. Guns are actually going the other way from out country into Mexico and other countries to our south where they are being used in drug trafficking, homicides and to intimidate many in those countries. Many are leaving those countries because it is too dangerous to live there. From the article:

Research shows that a majority of guns in Mexico can be traced to the U.S. A report from the U.S Government Accountability Office showed that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico by Mexican authorities and submitted for tracing have a U.S. origin. This percentage remains consistent, said Bradley Engelbert, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And the Trump has administration has recently taken steps to ease rules on gun exports, which enables manufacturers to sell guns in Mexico and Central America countries.
report from the Center of American Progress found that the United States was the primary source of weapons used in crime in Mexico and Canada. Other countries in Central America can also trace a large proportion of guns seized in crimes to the United States. For example, the report found that from 2014 to 2016, 49 percent of crime guns seized in El Salvador were originally purchased in the U.S. In Honduras, 45 percent of guns recovered in crime scenes were traced to the United States as well.

Let’s be clear. There is one gun shop in all of Mexico:

Like the 2nd Amendment in the United States, Mexico’s Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but it also stipulates that federal law “will determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places” of gun ownership. For many Mexicans, even those who love guns, the thought of an unfettered right to owning one is perplexing.

Claiming that crime guns are coming across our southern border is a foil for building the wall to keep illegal immigrants from entering our country. It is essential that we talk about the truth when dealing with matters of such grave importance.

Guns are not falling from the sky from a God who wants people to use them to shoot other human beings. And until we confront all of the lies and deceptions about the source of crime guns or legally owned guns that are killing 100 people a day, the carnage will continue. Immigrants are NOT bringing guns with them. They are fleeing from them in their home countries.

After the rash of shootings at football games, 2 shooting in DC , one with an AK-47 ( not allowed in the nation’s capital), and the recent high profile mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, the conversation is centering around what to do about assault style weapons that can be legally purchased in our country by just about anyone and now more frequently the weapon of choice by shooters.

But the times are changing. Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods are no longer selling these weapons of war and the ammunition used by shooters. And in a surprise announcement this week, Colt is going to stop the production of AR-15s in what they said was a market driven decision:

Despite their statement, experts wonder whether the company made the decision with other factors in mind.
“The public is getting very alarmed about what’s happening with assault rifles in the hands of potential mass shooters,” John Donohue, a Stanford Law professor with expertise in gun policy, tells TIME. “Colt may just be feeling better to get out of that particular market, and they’re offering this purely economic manufacturing argument rather than addressing the political realities right now as the justification for this decision.”

Who wants to be the manufacturer of a gun used in a heinous mass shooting? Who wants to be the seller of that gun? In my last post I addressed the changing culture and conversation because businesses and corporations are finally standing up for common sense about guns and shootings.

This week the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on assault weapons. I will be there. In addition there will be a rally to end gun violence at the Capitol attended by hundreds from all over the country. I will be there as well. Today I will be tabling at a local Fall Fest with other chapter members to talk about what can be done to prevent gun violence. We will have materials about ASK and End Family Fire as well as what Minnesotans can do to demand that the Minnesota Senate hear and vote on the 2 bills passed last session by the House about background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The majority wants this to happen and people are more than happy to sign on.

It’s exhausting to the country to hear about the daily carnage. It is NOT NORMAL for kids and others to carry guns to football games and start shooting at people. It is #NOT NORMAL for the public to have to race to safety when hearing the pop of gunshots in public places.

That being the case, what should we do? There are solutions staring us in the face. Congress must #DoSomething to pass laws that can make us safer. Gun owners must do their part. Gun dealers and manufacturers must do their part. Parents must do their part. Educators and health care providers must do their part. Corporations must do their part.

It’s in our collective hands.

Is it too extreme to speak the truth about gun violence?

personal photo of book

In my last post I wrote about the businesses who have decided to “come out” and tell their customers that they want nothing to do with their openly carried guns in their places of business. This would not have happened a month ago. But after the heinous shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it became obvious that any business could be the next one found in a Wikipedia entry for a mass shooting site. Who wants that to be your legacy?

Now the tide is coming in and it’s turning. A few days ago, 150 chief executives of some of America’s largest companies sent a letter to the Senate telling them that it’s “simply unacceptable” to not act on bills that could stop some of the gun violence that is affecting their customers and their businesses.

This is huge:

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

It’s been “off limits” for far too long. The corporate gun lobby has made it so. And our elected leaders and many influential business leaders and others, for that matter, who could have made a difference decades ago have now decided to weigh in.

The thing is, the public has been ahead of elected leaders for decades now. Look at the latest poll which is just one of many showing the same results over the last few decades. Support is undeniable. But deny does Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and the Republicans who have run out of excuses.

Why has it taken so long to act? Sometimes this is the way the system works I guess. But it does take bold action and a constant drumbeat of advocacy and also, I guess, one too many mass shootings, before it enters the collective consciousness of a country exhausted by the carnage.

When shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and then Odessa, Texas showed how people with AR-15s can inflict so much damage to human bodies in such a short time happened in rapid succession that appeared to be too much even for business leaders.

Let’s be clear. It’s been too much ever since the Columbine shooting became one of the first mass shootings to get the attention of the country. When our kids became the targets and the victims, mothers marched on DC in the Million Mom March in 2000. We were horrified at the shooting at a Jewish Day Care Center in California followed by the Columbine shooting and one brave woman, Donna Dees Thomases, stepped forward to lead the charge.

But that was 20 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries needlessly. We let the NRA lead the conversation with the second amendment as their foil to stop any common sense action to stop the next shooting. We let the gun lobby continue to protect gun manufacturer profits over lives. We let our leaders get away with avoiding any discussion about the role guns actually play in gun violence.

We are all to blame for this in a way. The Democrats got scared that if they touched the “third rail” of gun violence they would lose their seats. Never mind that thousands lost their loved ones. We tried. We have held rallies and hundreds of vigils. We have lobbied at the state and federal level. We have sent letters, made phone calls, visited with our leaders, lit candles, rang bells, and demanded action. We have lie-ins and sit-ins and stood up for common sense. We have protested in the streets of our towns and in the nation’s Capitol.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and severely wounded at a Tucson gathering outside of a mall and a group named for her and now called Giffords was formed. After the totally unimaginable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school a new group of mothers and others began- Moms Demand Action and Everytown.

Together, groups who have been working for decades like Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and many independent state groups (States United) have been joined by a host of other groups to demand action. We are making a difference. Congress is now hearing us but the Republicans are not listening.

Even a few months ago, Democrats vying to become our next President would not have touched the issue of gun violence. But something happened after the Parkland shooting. The student survivors fought back and made their voices loud and clear. March For Our Lives joined the others and it was hard to ignore their young and articulate voices.

The tide is changing. At this week’s Democratic debate, candidates tripped all over themselves to be the one with the best plan for preventing gun violence. The loudest voice was that of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who represented El Paso. El Paso, the site of the mass shooting at a Walmart that was carried out by a White Supremacist whose rhetoric matched that of our sitting President. O’Rourke suspended his campaign to be with the victims in El Paso and it changed him.

Sitting with those whose sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins and friends have just been shot and killed so suddenly and violently is hard work. Who among us wants to listen to those stories? But we must hear their stories if change is to happen. And it was so clear that the shooter in the El Paso incident should not have had a gun. It was so clear that the Dayton shooter should not have had a gun but they both got them anyway.

And then, the Odessa shooting showed us how, if we had passed a law requiring a background check on every gun sale, we could have prevented the shooting death of 7 innocent people and the permanent disfigurement of the face of a 17 month old baby.

So when Beto O’Rourke described sitting with the mother of a 15 year old girl as she died from the horrendous injuries caused by bullets from an AR-15, it was too much. There were so many injured people because AR-15s can do that- shoot as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that ambulances couldn’t respond to the mayhem. And so, the 15 year old died as her mother watched her bleed to death.

And now we have the famous statement made by Beto O’Rourke calling for a mandatory buyback of AR-15s and AK-47 assault style weapons originally meant for war. His description of why these weapons have been used and are used by the military was something we have not heard a candidate say before. His passion was genuine and heard loudly and clearly.

Even some Democrats came unglued and are wringing their hands. Oh my- what will happen now? Will we lose voters? Did we make people too angry? Will we lose the Presidency? What should we do about this perceived threat to gun rights? I guess time will tell how this shakes out. At the least it started a very important discussion about weapons designed for war in the hands of civilians.

What Beto O’Rourke did was “accidentally” or on purpose speak the truth. The public knows that it is AR-15s that have been used in many of our mass shootings. The public at large does not want these weapons in circulation so they get into the hands of people who intend mass carnage. Even many gun owners don’t want them, don’t need them, and are willing to give them up.

O’Rourke’s loud call was heard by a sitting Texas state Senator who issued a tweet heard ’round the country.

And this, dear readers, is why we need to act and act soon. When gun rights extremists occupy our state houses and Congress and believe they can own any weapon they want to own with no restrictions and then issue threatening rhetoric at candidates for office, we have turned a very dangerous corner.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Assault Weapons Ban and the 15th anniversary of its’ death. which was famously allowed to sunset in 2004 after only 10 years of keeping us safer from weapons designed for war. The gun lobby keeps trying to tell us that these weapons don’t kill many people compared to other guns. They tell us that they love them and we hate them because they are scary looking. They tell us that they need them for hunting and sport.

No. When they kill, they kill many at a time and the bullets do much more damage to human tissue. That is why the military likes them.

No. They are not good for hunting.

No. They are not needed by anyone for self defense or sport.

Here are some facts offered by Brady that were sent out on social media yesterday:

“In shootings with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, 155% more people are shot and 47% more people are killed. These weapons of war were designed for mass destruction. (…) According to the @nytimes, the federal assault weapon ban — which ran from Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 13, 2004 — was associated with a 25% drop in gun massacres and 40% percent drop in fatalities.  (…) On September 13, 2004, Congress let the federal assault weapons ban expire. In the decade after, America saw a 347% increase in fatalities in gun massacres. Enough is enough. Congress: it’s past time to end this bloodshed and #BanAssaultWeapons now! “

Yes. We can save lives if we ban assault weapons. Yes. We can save lives if we pass universal background check and red flag laws. Yes. We can do this. Yes. It’s past time. Yes. Beto O’Rourke said something that people are talking about. Was it too extreme?

Was it to extreme for 53 Americans to be shot in mass shootings just in August?

Is it too extreme that the Republicans have stopped every reasonable gun bill coming their way and let Americans die as a result?

Is it too extreme to let the NRA write our gun bills?

Is ti too extreme that the NRA had help from Russia to get our current President get elected?

Is it too extreme that our President swings like a pendulum whenever a mass shooting happens and then fails to act?

Is the cost of an assault weapons buy-back too extreme?

Is the actual cost in billions of dollars attributed to gun violence and all that happens in the aftermath too extreme?

Is it too extreme that a group of student survivors had to write their own plan, in the absence of action from Congress, to stop gun violence?

Is it too extreme that a book, “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You” was published because children are texting their parents in terror during lock-down drills and during actual shootings? Survivors who wrote in the book are not extreme people. They are average Americans who have experienced the terror of school shootings and survived to tell their stories.

Is it too extreme that our children are the targets of mass shooters?

Is it too extreme that the American Federation of Teachers, March For Our Lives and Brady teamed up to run an ad in Politico showing a student hiding under a desk during a lock-down drill?

Is it too extreme that our schools have been forced to have these drills in the first place because our leaders refuse to act to prevent school shooters from getting guns in the first place?

I know the answers. I own the book pictured above and know some of the people who wrote sections of that book. I understand that even still, decades after shootings, they do not forget the terror. I also know some people affected by mass shootings and “everyday shootings” like my own sister’s. I know the emotional and financial trauma suffered by too many. I have met some of the survivors of these shootings and seen the sadness in their eyes.

You know the answers. The public understands. The Democrats are not afraid anymore. American business leaders are not afraid anymore. Teachers, parents and students are not afraid to speak out. Survivors are not afraid. The stakes are high. Lives are at stake.

The only ones still afraid of the corporate gun lobby are the ones who can make the difference.They are afraid they will lose their power and influence and yes, campaign donations. If they won’t act, we will. We will make sure they are voted out of office and left to wonder what happened and why they refused to act on our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

#Enough