Active shooters

shooting fingerYesterday a report of an active shooter at Andrews Air Force Base was reported on the news. For a while, the facility was put on lock-down while things were checked out. It was discovered that the base was having an active shooter drill. Someone at a medical facility on base reported seeing two men walking around with rifles and called 911 to report it.  As it turns out, the two men were apparently part of the drill.

This is America. Guns are everywhere and are encouraged to be carried everywhere. We really don’t know the difference between a “good guy” with a gun and a “bad guy” with a gun even though Wayne LaPierre has some people believing there is a difference at first blush.

This is America. “Good guys” with guns kill people every day. Take the recent Orlando shooting for instance. The shooter was not prohibited from buying a gun at a federally licensed firearms dealer. There were some warnings- many in fact- but none that would rise to the prohibited purchaser category. There’s the terror watch list on which the shooter’s name was placed for a while. But such people can get guns in America.

The shooter was a domestic abuser and had mental health problems according to his first wife. It’s easy for those people to get guns in America since we don’t require Brady background checks on all gun sales so anyone can get a gun easily.

It’s easy to get guns in America. The bar is low. By definition the Orlando shooter was a “good guy”. How does Mr. Wayne LaPierre explain that? He is not asked that question because he doesn’t answer questions like that. There is no logical explanation and so he gets away with spewing his hate, fear and paranoia and, stupidly, some people believe what he says.

Take this Texas mother. She believed the fear, apparently. Having posted on social media that she didn’t want her guns to be taken from her, she was a proud American gun owner:

Christy Sheats wrote often online about her faith, and on several occasions she posted about her support of the Second Amendment and her right to bear arms.

“I have 10 guns. Obama wants 8 of my guns. How many guns do I have?” said one meme, over a photo of bullets and a gun. “That’s right, I have 10 guns.”

She captioned the photo: “That’s right! #merica.”

Yes. “#merica.”

And then, in the heat of anger and mental illness and marriage problems, she took the anger and her guns out apparently on her husband by killing the people he loved the most. When officers confronted her, she aimed at them so they shot her.

Should this woman have had a gun given 3 admissions to a hospital for mental illness and suicidal behavior? (see article above)

This is America. She was a “good girl” with a gun apparently.

She was an active shooter.

Today I attended a panel discussion at Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs  in Duluth for visitors from Moldova. DAIP is an internationally recognized program training communities all over the world about the Duluth model and the coordinated community response. The Chief of Police, the Mayor, the County Attorney, the County Sheriff, a local judge and someone from a local corrections facility explained their own role and then answered questions.

What do you suppose one of the questions was from the Moldovans? Are there weapons often involved in domestic disputes? What happens if there is? Do you take them away? What happens to those weapons if you take them from the abuser?

The answer from the Chief- we have to assume that everyone is armed! Yes. The visitors laughed nervously but then realized he was not making it up. He said that with 300 odd million guns in America, we can guess that many of the domestic abusers will be armed and that officers go prepared for that realization; that there will be an active shooter.

Women are more at risk to die when there is a gun in the home. Domestic disputes are the most dangerous calls for law enforcement. Actually everyone is more at risk when there is a gun in the home according to many studies:

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

This is America. We have active shooters everywhere- in our homes, in schools, malls, airports, nightclubs, movie theaters, on the streets, at air bases- everywhere.

We have good guys with guns who shoot people every day intentionally or by “accident”. Check out the site, Gun Violence Archive, that is keeping track of shooting incidents ( active shooters) all over the country.

I don’t know what you call children who regularly find their parents’ guns and shoot themselves or someone else by “accident”. A bad boy or a bad girl?

What do you call a teen or an older white male who shoot themselves with guns in great numbers in America? “Bad kid”? “Bad man”? Active shooter? Or Veterans whose suicide gun rate is very high and we are doing little to stop it? Are they “good guys” with guns?

This is America.

Two days ago Americans all over the country went to visit their House members while they were at home in their districts. They delivered beach balls ( Protect Minnesota), letters, sat-in, asked for common sense, thanked them for standing up for victims during the “sit-in” last week and made some noise. It turns out that most responsible gun owners don’t belong to the NRA which is the main lobby group opposing anything that might make us all safer. We asked our Representative to represent the more than 80% of us, even gun owners, who want them to act.

After Orlando, things changed. Votes may happen. Even Speaker Paul Ryan is feeling the heat. He knows he has to at least stop terrorists from getting guns. I mean, that is a no brainer but you’d never know it from the reaction of the Republicans in the House and Senate. They act as if stopping terrorists and others who shouldn’t have guns from getting them is un-American. I mean- everyone has a “sacred” right to own a gun, right?

But when the NRA writes gun policy legislation, as this vote (above) would be, it’s like the fox guarding the hen house:

“House Democrats will keep up our efforts to push for the majority to allow a vote on gun violence legislation, but bringing up a bill authored by the NRA just isn’t going to cut it,” said Drew Hammill, an aide to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. The NRA denied writing the legislation.

Let’s have some legislation that will actually work rather than weak legislation that may not work so the pro gun lobbyists and leaders can say the laws don’t work anyway so why pass any. This kind of cynicism is not OK and will not save lives but rather is window dressing. Time will tell what will take place.

Many of our leaders know this. They are afraid of the wrong people. They are afraid of the guys with the guns. They should be very afraid of the families and friends of the victims and those who know that we can do better.

So back to active shooters and the Moldovans.  Moldova has a rate of firearm deaths of .79 per 100,000. No wonder they were nervous when the Police Chief gave his answer. Active shooters are very rare in their country.

Only in America do we have regular active shooter drills in businesses, military bases, tourist attractions, medical clinics, schools, etc. If this is the new normal, it puts the onus on our leaders to make sure we are safer from active shooters by making sure there are far fewer of them just like we did with air raid drills when I was a child. From this post by Mike Weisser at Mike the Gun Guy:

Crouching under a wooden desk is about as much of a positive response to nuclear attack as giving someone a week-long course in armed force and then have them walking through a school hallway looking for a kid with a gun. The whole point of nuclear non-proliferation is the recognition that once the weapon is out there, the chances of it being used go way up. Trump seems to be unaware that this is why a basic consensus exists that the world needs to be a nuclear-free zone.

The same argument can be made about gun-free zones which, despite the nonsense peddled by the NRA, make every place safer if guns aren’t allowed. And it’s no violation of anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights to leave the gun at home.

We did something about regulating and controlling nuclear weapons to make the county and the world safer from those kinds of attacks. Not one has happened since our own country bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Let’s take back our country and stop the fear mongering. We do have active shooters every day. But arming more people to try to stop the shooters makes no common sense given reality. More guns and more armed people have clearly not made us all safer.

#Enough. #DisarmHate

 

#NRAAM NRA Convention, 2016 version

liarIf it’s May, it must be NRA convention time. The lies have just begun.So far, it has proven to be the usual with the exception of a certain Presidential candidate who showed up and spoke from notes he doesn’t usually use. From this article:

 

Trump also made it clear he wanted to woo the pro-gun crowd — but he seemed bored by his prepared remarks during his speech, joking about teleprompters before veering off onto other topics throughout the speech and even belittling his own remarks.

What did he say? More lies. But the crowd loved the lies and were excited to applaud a man whose transformation from a real estate guy who used to be in favor of common sense when it came to gun violence to a full-on card carrying NRA gun guy. He was, of course, endorsed by the NRA.

Whatever.

The lies? Let’s take them one at a time:

Donald Trump will make gun free zones guns allowed zones immediately upon taking the oath of office. Will that include his own properties? Will that include the annual NRA convention where guns are not allowed? It will, apparently include schools where it’s always a good idea for gun toters and teachers to be armed.

If this was such a good idea, why in the world are we the most dangerous country in the world when it comes to gun violence? Is this the great America Trump wants for us? How about this? Let’s make America safe again, a new slogan from Moms Demand Action. While the NRA is talking about more guns everywhere, a group of gun violence prevention activists will hold a screening of Katie Couric’s film, Under the Gun. featuring victims of gun violence telling their poignant stories.

We have more guns per person ( though many of those guns are owned by fewer people) already than any other country in the civilized and democratized world. And this kind of illogic fails to speak the truth. Most gun deaths are in guns allowed zones already. Take domestic shootings, many of which occur inside of homes. Or gun suicides, which often occur in a home where a gun is not only allowed but easily accessible to use in a suicide. Homes are not gun free zones since anyone can have a gun inside of their own home. I know that from personal experience.

Or gun ranges where people are killing themselves with increasing frequency?

Or how about hospitals, which are mostly gun free, where people like this lady who carried a gun in spite of the gun free zone, “accidentally” discharged her weapon injuring an innocent person.

Or what about cars? Are they gun free? Nope. Remember this one and this one where a toddler got their hands on a gun and shot their own parent? Or the guy who “accidentally” discharged his gun while sitting in his car waiting for his wife. Or the woman who was adjusting her bra gun holster and shot and killed herself?  Gun free zone? You decide.

Or how about taking selfies with your phone? Presumably the place where this happened was not a gun free zone.

Bars and restaurants in many states allow concealed guns inside. It hasn’t worked out particularly well as in this case, or this one. Or this one where a man forgot he had his gun when it fell from his jacket pocket in a restaurant ( presumably not a gun free zone) badly injuring one of the customers whose injuries will be life long. Or this Kansas man ( “law abiding gun owner) whose gun went off in a restaurant injuring his own wife. There are pages and pages of incidents like these if you look on the internet. Most of them occur in guns allowed zones. But if they occur in “gun free zones” who can one defend oneself from a stupid and dangerous gun carrier who believes he/she has a right to carry a loaded gun in public and then makes a terrible and sometimes deadly mistake. There’s no accounting for stupidity. But stupidity with a loaded gun is very serious stuff.

#Enough

Let’s move on to some more lies. Trump is making claims that Hillary Clinton wants to confiscate all guns and take away American’s right to own guns. Silly Donald. He knows better. But pandering to the minority of gun owners who are extreme in their positions is his ticket, he believes, to winning the election. Most NRA members don’t believe this and actually support requiring background checks on all gun sales. Shhhh. Don’t tell the Donald this. It doesn’t fit with his new-found support of gun rights.

Oh, and then there’s the lie about Hillary Clinton wanting violent criminals to go free. Just because he says so does not make it true. But never mind. Trying to make women fear crime in order to drive them to gun stores to buy a gun or to the polling booths is cynical at best and doesn’t deal with the truth that women are more at risk when there are guns in the home. But here is what Donald said anyway to get votes from women:

“In trying to overturn the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton is telling everyone — and every woman living in a dangerous community — that she doesn’t have the right to defend herself,” Mr. Trump said. “So you have a woman living in a community, a rough community, a bad community — sorry, you can’t defend yourself.”

Trump has had a lot of trouble with his support from women because of his many comments and insults since his entry into the Presidential race.

It’s also the usual suspects who come calling at this display of gun extremism. Of course, it wouldn’t be an NRA convention without good old Wayne LaPierre whose annual speeches to convention goers never fail to drum up fear and paranoia. And then the list of politicians who have to pay homage to this group of gun extremists shows how our leaders are so afraid to admit that the second amendment actually can co-exist with gun rights as it has for many years now.

Sigh.

And what about those NRA leaders and Board members? Here’s a nice list so you can see who they are and who they represent. Ted Nugent, of course, is one of the loud mouth NRA Board members who offends people and issues racial and sexist slurs on a regular basis. And in late breaking news, Nugent was re-elected to the NRA Board with the 2nd highest vote total. That tells us everything we need to know about the participants at the convention and their willingness to support hate, racism and crudity.

And of course, if we follow the money to find out how the NRA is actually funded we don’t have to look much further than executives of Sturm-Ruger who presented the NRA-ILA with a nice 4 million dollar check. 

The displays are the usual- guns and more guns. And don’t forget those ugly displays of bleeding look-alike gun targets (women, Barack Obama, etc) , hyped up slogans and swag with anti-Obama sayings and more ludicrous lies about those who support the idea that 30,000 American gun deaths are too many.

In Louisville, Kentucky, the site of the annual convention this year, it’s been a bad year for gun deaths:

“We are having an epidemic,” says Michelle Unseld Thomas, a resident of the South Side.

The violence in Louisville right now is “unprecedented,” says Brown, the police major.

But never mind. The NRA doesn’t get involved in trying to prevent this upward trend of people shooting other people. One has to wonder if their insular world includes anyone who has become a victim of a gun death by suicide, homicide, or an “accidental” shooting. Likely not.

And the shootings continue unabated. Children are shooting themselves or each other daily. Domestic shootings are taking the lives of innocent women and children. Suicides account for the majority of gun deaths. Young men in communities of color are the victims of way too many shootings thanks to easy access to guns and mass shootings happen in America like in no other country in the world.

One of the biggest lies is that guns don’t affect suicide rates and that suicides should not be considered to be gun violence. That is false. Studies confirm that access to guns makes suicide easier and, of course, deadlier. A new study from the Journal of Public Health confirms this. If only the NRA could admit that guns contribute to the majority of gun deaths in America and believe in research and studies that deal with public health and safety. But denial and outright deception by the corporate gun lobby has kept the government from studying important issues like this. Follow the money for the reasons.

But never mind the truth. This convention is all about convincing those in attendance and those who get the NRA’s mailings and emails that America will only be safer if more people own guns to protect themselves from the government and all of those evil shadows lurking around every corner in every nook and cranny. Never mind that those guns are much more likely to be used against you or someone around you than in self defense.

And those militia groups and people who actually do believe the government is coming for your guns? I feel sorry for their fear. It must be difficult to live in a world where that kind of fear prompts people to have their own arsenals. It’s  a burden to have to live this way. Plus, it sometimes leads to home grown terrorism as in this deadly incident in Nevada.

Are we safer because of the hyped fear and paranoia spewed by gun rights extremists and those who speak at NRA conventions?

A recent study of angry behavior which received responses from gun owners and non gun owners revealed what we all most likely believe to be the truth. There are a lot of angry (mostly men) with guns carried for “self defense” who just may use them for something else. From the article by “Mike the Gun Guy”:

Where the number of guns owned by individuals seemed to be a real risk issue can be found in the correlation between number of guns owned, engaging in any of the three anger indicators and carrying a gun outside the home. The good news in this survey was that less than 5 percent of the respondents reported that they walked around with a gun. The not-so-good news is that folks who owned six or more guns and carried a concealed weapon reported that they engaged in at least one of the three impulsive behaviors four times more frequently than persons who owned five or fewer guns.

This study and others about anger and guns lends the lie to the idea that guns will make us safer. Way too often angry people with guns shoot others in an instant because they can. And that is the real America.

We can’t afford to lie about gun violence. And we sure as heck cannot afford to have one of our major political party candidates for President of the United States lying about something this serious.It is a national public health and safety epidemic that is largely going untreated because of the lies. Are we on the side of a safer America or one that allows lies and deceptions to determine policies and treatment that can save lives? This election will determine on whose side we are.

 

 

 

 

Violence by bullets

Basic RGBWe live in a violent country.  Unfortunately, violence has always been in human nature. Various ways of committing violence over time have resulted in too many deaths to count. Why are we so violent? The search for answers to that question has been centuries long and will always be with us. But we are living in this time right now and so are dealing with what is front of our faces every day. There is an understanding that purposely killing another human being is violence no matter the method. When people die by bullet(s) their deaths cannot be called anything but violent.

Mike the Gun Guy has written a blog post about suicide by gun and whether or not it should be considered in the category of gun violence. It is important to make this point because most gun deaths in our country are due to suicide. If the gun lobby wants to lower the number of people they believe are killed by bullets, they throw out the numbers of suicides. It doesn’t fit with their idea that a gun for self defense in the home can be used in other ways rather than self defense. I will discuss this later in this post. For now, let’s look at what Mike has to say:

But let’s drop the euphemism and look at reality: “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups.  It remained true after accounting for poverty, urbanization and unemployment.” The link between gun ownership and suicide is particularly evident among teens, according to researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the fastest-growing age-group prone to suicides are teens. Since 2007, the overall rate of gun suicide has increased by 12%, the gun suicide rate among teens is up by 42%.

First of all, in a paragraph previous to the one above, Mike writes about the National Shooting Sports Foundation actually offering safety tips to gun owners on its’ website and comes close to saying guns are a risk in homes. That’s good news. In a recent blog post, I argued that if people understood the risks of owning guns they would, at the least, be more aware of their responsibilities to keep guns locked up and away from small kids and teens. One of the age groups with high rates of gun suicides are teens.

But then, Mike talks about the use of the word violence to refer to gun suicides:

Don’t think that suicide isn’t gun violence?  Think again.  Here’s how violence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘someone else,’ because that’s a crime called aggravated assault.

Violence means damage and there’s nothing out there that can damage someone as effectively or quickly as a gun, particularly when you don’t even have to aim.  As far as I’m concerned, at least when it comes to suicide, maybe the GVP community should just drop the ‘V.’

I say we don’t drop the “V”. Violence happens every day. But most of the violent deaths are committed with firearms. And most of the firearms deaths are suicides. There are solutions to this kind of violence. I write about them in almost every post. Common sense leads us to the conclusion that, since firearms are the cause of so many deaths and injuries, something should be done about the access to them, who should have them, how they are stored, how the firearms are sold, what sex, race and age group die in the highest numbers, etc. We are already doing some of this research but we need a lot more if we are to deal with gun violence as a public health epidemic.

So now I want to talk about the idea of guns for self defense since that is the reason a lot of people buy guns. The Violence Policy Center has released a new report about guns for self defense. From this press release about the study:

The study finds that in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, there were only 211 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the SHR. Twenty states reported zero justifiable homicides in 2013. That year, there were 7,838 criminal firearm homicides.

In 2013, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 37 criminal homicides. This ratio does not even take into account the tens of thousands of lives needlessly lost in gun suicides and unintentional shootings that year.

The study also finds only a tiny fraction of the intended victims of violent crime or property crime employ guns for self-defense. Over a three-year period from 2012 to 2014, less than one percent of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a firearm, and only 0.2 percent of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a firearm.

“Self-defense is the big lie that the firearms industry and gun lobby use to promote gun sales. The fact is that any gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional killing than in a justifiable homicide,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “A gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense.”

Guns are designed to kill people so if a gun is purchased for self defense isn’t that because the owner intends to use it at some point to kill or injure another human being? If people were warned about the risks like smokers are when they buy a pack of cigarettes, would it make a difference? Maybe. If people had mandatory training before being able to acquire a gun, would it make a difference? Maybe. So why not do these things because they certainly wouldn’t hurt anything and they just might prevent some senseless gun deaths?

When States United to Prevent Gun Violence set up a phony gun shop in New York City and explained to prospective gun buyers that the type of gun they wanted to buy was used in a recent mass shooting, the buyers changed their minds. Reality hit. Take a look:

Guns do have a history. All guns start out as a legal purchase but get into the illegal market in several ways- sold without a background check to someone who shouldn’t have a gun or to someone who intends to sell the gun without a background check to someone the seller does not know; stealing; straw purchase; trafficked on the street. If a gun doesn’t have its’ own personal history, the type of gun sold does and perversely, after a mass shooting, some Americans rush out to buy the very type of gun used in that mass shooting.

Where is common sense?

I watched  the movie American Gun. It is a movie that traces the history of a gun used to kill a man’s daughter. In the end ( spoiler alert) the gun used to kill his daughter was his own gun that had been stolen. Guns have histories.

Back to talking about the word violence. Many gun violence prevention organizations do use that word for a reason. People who die from gunshot injuries die a violent and usually sudden, unexpected death. There is no way around that. Whether the bullets came from a gun used in a suicide, a homicide or an “accidental” shooting, the bullets cause a violent reaction to a person’s body. And so we have:

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The Violence Policy Center

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Protect Minnesota, Minnesotans working together to prevent gun violence

States United to Prevent Gun Violence

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

And many more too numerous to list here.

Violence is pervasive in America. Gun violence accounts for much of violence. Our media is littered with reports about shootings and shootings cause violence to the bodies of the victims. It is a violent death for sure. Bullets are designed to do damage to soft tissue inside of a person’s body.

A new study also suggests that gun violence is worse than we thought it was. Vox.com has reported here:

Beyond the implications for policy research, the findings are simply alarming. It’s hard to imagine that America’s gun violence problem is actually worse than we think, given that the country, even after the big drop in crime over the past few decades, still fares much worse than its developed peers. But this study shows that may be the case. At the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

How can we not count shootings as shootings? Sometimes when shootings result in only injuries or minor injuries, they are not counted. A shooting is a shooting because it results in less safe communities and a gun culture where too many people become victims of devastating violence that has a ripple effect.

Unless we have the common sense to talk about the issue for what it is, nothing will change. Perhaps if we showed photos taken by law enforcement at shooting scenes our legislators would change their minds about doing nothing about the violence. Perhaps if one of the gun rights extremists who argued with me at the hearing this week in the Minnesota Senate on the background check bill had seen a photo of my sister lying in a pool of blood at the shooting scene, he would have had just a little empathy for why I am trying to prevent gun deaths.

More on this in my next post.

I just know we can do better than this. Not addressing gun violence as encompassing all kinds of gun deaths is putting our heads in the sand. More guns have not made us safer and to the affected families, no matter what the cause of the gun death, it was a shooting that took the life of a loved one in a dramatic, sudden, unexpected and violent way.

 

 

Reactions to new gun executive orders

??????As could have been predicted, the reaction to the President’s announced executive orders have been fierce and wrong. The gun lobby and run rights extremists as well as certain politicians believe that these executive orders are meant for them personally apparently. For the reaction just doesn’t fit with what is actually in those orders. The fear in the statements from those who disagree is unfounded but it’s hard to convince them otherwise. This is going to be a tough job.

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post wrote this article about why the executive orders should be embraced by the gun rights enthusiasts.  He lists several, including the issue of mental health and guns, enforcing existing gun laws and supporting the second amendment. All 3 of these are what the corporate gun lobby and their supporters in Congress have been talking about for many years when they oppose any new common sense measures to reduce gun violence. From the article:

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced a set of new gun rules that might amount to a big political statement but, technically, represent a clarification of already-existing laws. The biggest change — a provision that would require more gun sellers to be licensed as firearms dealers — does not qualify as new regulation, and hence is not dependent on either public comment or congressional review. The provisions are so modest that initially even the NRA initially shrugged off the changes by saying “they’re not really doing anything.”

Still, champions of gun rights in Congress and elsewhere wasted no time in lambasting the president and his proposal — even though it appears that many of the provisions are pretty much in line with what gun rights advocates have long demanded.

So what is this about then? Opposition to anything President Obama wants to do. That’s obvious. The fear mongering and paranoia about gun confiscation and government overreach has been screamed at us now by Wayne LaPierre and others as if it is true. And the worst of this is that too many people believe it. Captain Mark Kelly, husband to Gabby Giffords, had a really good question at the town hall meeting:

Mark Kelly, the astronaut and husband of former Arizona congresswoman and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords, told Obama the two gun control advocates have encountered fears that expanding background checks “will lead to a (gun) registry, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to a tyrannical government.”

“With 350 million guns in 65 million places, households … if the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?” Kelly asked.

Cooper jumped in, asking: “Is fair to call it a conspiracy? I mean, a lot of people really believe this, deep down — that they just don’t trust you.”

“I’m sorry, but yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy,” Obama said. “What are you saying? Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can enforce marshal law is a conspiracy? Yes, that is a conspiracy. I would hope you would agree with that. Is that controversial?”

He said if he truly desired to strip away Second Amendment rights, he’d have started much earlier in his presidency.

“Look, I mean, I’m only going to be here for another year. I don’t know — when would I have started on this enterprise, right?” Obama said.

It turns out that President Obama has made no attempt to confiscate the (about) 350 million guns in circulation in the U.S. And it also turns out that most gun owners agree with President Obama. Apparently they don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theory that any new gun regulation will automatically lead to their guns and rights being unceremoniously stripped from them. Most people already understand that that is going to be an impossible thing to do and just won’t happen.

I was on the Facebook page of a Minneapolis area TV station during the CNN town hall meeting on Thursday night making comments along with many gun rights advocates. The arguments were indicative of the above and based on hyperbole and often not fact based. There was some agreement here and there about the sentencing for gun crimes.

But I want to talk about one item in the Presidential executive orders that Christopher Ingraham did not address in the above linked article- on-line gun sales. For the last several years, I and others have argued that there are opportunities to obtain guns through on line sales with no background checks. The gun lobby argues that this is not possible. Their argument is that all on line sales must go through a federally licensed dealer. This is not true. Internet groups have made it possible for gun sellers to advertise their guns for sale on sites like Armslist.com.

I found something new and interesting on the Armslist site today while looking it up for this post.  It has been changed and one can no longer click on private sellers to see how many there are. Also many of even the private sellers are advertising that the gun needs to go to a licensed dealer or ( in my state of Minnesota) a Minnesota permit to purchase or conceal carry permit is required by the seller. Perhaps all of the attention paid to private on-line sales is already affecting this market place. And if so, this is good news for everyone.

Back to the site, though, buyers can go to this site and find a seller of a gun they want, connect with the seller and make arrangements to exchange money for a gun(s). Some of these sellers advertise that they are private sellers and actually have advertised that no background checks are required. I did not see this while looking this morning. I did notice that in other states with generally looser gun laws, like Florida, there were more “unregistered” or private sellers listed.

Armslist is where the shooter at the Wisconsin spa that killed 3, not including the shooter, got his gun through a private seller with no background check.  He was a prohibited purchaser because of his domestic abuse.

Mike the Gun Guy addressed on-line sales in a recent blog post. From his post:

The reason that I would check the listings in these other states is that if I drive to one of those states and buy a gun from a private seller, I give him the money, he gives me the gun, I drive back home and that’s the end of that. And that’s the end of that because those states do not regulate private gun transfers which, in the case of long guns, happens to be true in more than 40 states. Will the seller of an out-of-state gun ask me to prove that I am also a resident of his state?  He might, but then again he might not.  Remember, if he lives in a state that doesn’t regulate private sales, he’s not breaking any law by selling me that gun.  And since he’s not a licensed dealer, he is under no requirement to ascertain whether I am legally able to own that gun, or even keep a record of the sale.  I’m breaking the law because I can’t bring an unliensed gun back to my home state.  But I didn’t want to submit to a background check anyway, remember?

The situation gets a little trickier with handguns because such transfers tend to be more strictly regulated in many states and folks who sell handguns are generally aware that handguns have a funny way of winding up in the ‘wrong hands.’ So if I want to buy a handgun without submitting to a background check, I probably will stay within my own state, assuming that my state doesn’t regulate private handgun sales.  Which is the real impact of the internet as regards the flow of private guns, because I can drive from one end of my state to the other within 3 hours, but could I know of the desire of some seller in another town within my state to get rid of a gun without going online?  Of course not.

When the internet first started up, you could find gun listings on Craiglist, other online classifieds including eBay, and you could pay for guns if you had a Paypal account. Those sites quickly banned guns because they decided the liability far outweighed the returns.  But I can’t imagine that websites like Armslist or GunsAmerica would voluntarily ban private sales, since that’s their reason for being in business in the first place.  As long as the internet operates as a giant flea market and guns are legal commerce, guns are going to be sold online, it’s as simple as that.

So yes, there is reason to regulate this on-line market place that sells guns to potential prohibited individuals. Does anyone want them to have guns?

Facebook was involved in a bit of a tussle with gun safety reform advocates a few years ago about the site allowing the sales of guns. They made some minor changes to their position but did not outright ban the sale of guns as did Craigslist. ( I am editing this post to include this article that reveals that Craigslist did ban gun sales on its’ site but apparently people are still advertising guns and ammunition for sale. This is an insidious problem.

So here is just one example of an Arizona teen who got a gun through a Facebook group. He brought that gun to a school.

Facebook gun sales largely remain unregulated:

It’s hard to tell if these moves slowed down gun sales on Facebook generally or made a dent in unregulated or illegal deals in particular. The platform still hosts scores of members-only groups that exist solely to facilitate private sales, many with thousands of followers. While some of the groups operate instates with universal background check laws, 32 states don’t mandate such checks for private transfers. So even though members of those groups can’t boast that they won’t conduct checks, they’re under no obligation to actually make sure in-state gun transfers they’ve arranged on Facebook are legal. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Facebook’s approach is similar to those taken by other popular social networking sites, such as Reddit. The self-proclaimed “front page of the internet” bans discussion of baldly illegal activity, but even after outside pressure it remains a pretty easy place to arrange a gun transfer free from background checks. One entire subreddit is dedicated to gun sales. It asks first time visitors if they’re over 18, but there’s no way to verify if a user is answering truthfully. Many sellers on the subreddit offer to meet “FtF,” or face-to-face, where they can make the exchange without running the background check that a licensed dealer would require.

Some newspapers allow sales of guns from private sellers who most likely will not require a background check from a buyer. My own local newspaper changed their policy some years ago with some pressure from our local Brady Campaign chapter as did other media outlets. But then the ownership of the paper changed hands and the sales are again allowed. How does a seller know to whom he/she is selling that gun(s)? There were no firearms for sale in my local newspaper today. Maybe this is a sign that things are changing for the good.

Public opinion is coalescing around President Obama’s executive orders and even further measures to make sure we are safe from people who should not have guns. National columnist and conservative Kathleen Parker wrote this opinion piece today:

This may well be true, but couldn’t we stand to tweak them a bit? Or, perhaps, enforce them? And, isn’t it possible to reduce the number of guns in the wrong hands without surrendering our Second Amendment rights or invoking the slippery slope of government confiscation?

Of course it is — and we can.

Obama made an artful and poignant counterargument to the usual objections Tuesday during a news conference from the White House. He reminded those gathered, including many who have lost family members to gun violence, that other people also have rights — the right to free assembly or the right to practice their religion without being shot.

In fairness to the gun lobby, which may not deserve such charity, one can understand reservations about limiting access to guns. What is less easily understood is the refusal of Republicans to take the reins of any given issue and do something constructive rather than invariably waiting to be forced into the ignoble position of “no.”

It is one thing to be in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. It is another to do nothing and then assume a superior posture of purposeful neglect, as though do-nothingness were a policy and smug intransigence a philosophy. (…) Obama’s actions won’t go unchallenged, needless to say. And much political hay will be threshed, bundled and sold to Republican primary voters in the meantime. But GOP voters should be as skeptical of those ringing the gong of doom as they have been of Obama. In a civilized society, more guns can’t be better than fewer.

Parker does reflect the truth of the matter. There are much in these executive orders to actually strengthen the second amendment and rights of law abiding gun owners as well as the right of the rest of us ( and even reasonable gun owners who agree) to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Reasonable discussions can occur with reasonable people. At this point in time, during a Presidential election, I guess we can’t expect that to happen from the Republican candidates or members of Congress who are beholden to the corporate gun lobby. And more’s the pity. Lives will be lost in the daily carnage that results in 89 dead Americans a day. Children will get their hands on guns and shoot themselves or others. Domestic abusers, some who are prohibited purchasers, others not, will continue to shoot their spouses, girlfriends and/or partners. Gangs will continue to get guns through an illegal market that we can do something about if we put our mind to it. And young (mostly) men, teens and older (mostly) white men will continue to shoot themselves at alarming rates. Serving and ex military members will shoot themselves on almost a daily basis. And “accidental” gun discharges will continue to occur amongst those who are not responsible with their guns.

To say the President’s orders would no nothing to stop any of this is the height of hypocrisy. The gun lobby speaks out of both sides of its’ collective mouth. Which is it? That Obama is coming for your guns or that these measures will do nothing..

We are better than this. Let’s get to work.

Wake up calls about gun violence

alarm_clockDoes anyone think through the results of our lax gun laws? I know I do but, as a country, we have been so steeped in a unique gun culture that we have lost our way. It’s time to wake up to the reality of what our lax gun laws actually mean.

I ran across an editorial from the Washington Post comparing the recent Colorado Springs shooting with the recent California campus stabbing. Four people were stabbed by someone wielding a knife on a campus and will survive. Not so for the victims of the Colorado man who walked plainly down the streets of Colorado Springs with an openly carried gun that was legal to carry. From the article:

Imagine if Colorado weren’t so permissive in allowing people to openly display guns. Would that 911 operator have recognized the danger more quickly and would lives have been saved?

Similarly, imagine what would have occurred if the attacker at the University of California at Merced had wielded a gun instead of a hunting knife. Would there have been fatalities instead of injuries, and would there have been additional victims before the attacker could be stopped? Indeed, would the construction worker who bravely broke up the attack have been able to do so if a gun were involved and not a knife?

Where is the knife lobby when you need it? Death by knifings/stabbings are very low compared to firearms. The obvious is before us. Gun laws would matter and would save lives. But we are living in a country where rights come before public safety. Is this what we really thought would happen when our state legislators loosened our gun laws in a slippery slope that has led to the spectacle of armed citizens on our streets?

What do we think of when armed men (mostly men) are walking armed on the streets of our communities? I think of countries at war. And I do believe that we are war with ourselves in America. How can we think otherwise? When more Americans have lost their lives since 1968 to gun violence than all Americans who have died in all American wars since the Revolutionary War, we know we have a real public health and safety epidemic that we are not addressing with any kind of common sense.

When small children continue to shoot themselves or someone else because of easy access to a gun, we have a serious problem. When teens and middle aged white men have access to guns, they are shooting themselves at an alarming rate. 

Will we admit that guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and animals? Even in hunting season, there are accidents because bullets are projectiles coming from guns that kill animals but sometimes kill or injure hunters or innocent bystanders. One such happened in my own state of Minnesota when a slug hit a hunter instead of a deer. Luckily for all the man will live. Gun safety is of the utmost importance but isn’t always followed by gun owners.

Every one who holds a gun should have required gun safety classes before they can own or carry a gun. I will remind my readers that the gun lobby is actually working to do away with training requirements for those who carry guns in public. And we don’t require any prior experience or training before someone walks out the door of a gun shop with a gun. Never mind those who get their guns without a Brady background check because we have no idea who these folks are or whether they are allowed to purchase guns let alone be able to be responsible with them once they have them.

Not only is the gun lobby keeping us snoozing when it comes to gun safety reform, they are ramping up the fear and paranoia to those who believe it. It sells guns. Take a look at this post from Mike the Gun Guy for the contradictions in our country when it comes to gun rights and gun safety reform. Mike is a guy the gun lobby/extremists hate. Why? He is a gun owner who is speaking the inconvenient truths about guns and gun laws. He is a supporter of gun violence prevention and yet lives in the world of guns. A majority of gun owners are like Mike. From his latest blog post after attending a vigil at the National Cathedral in DC and then attending a Pennsylvania gun show:

The point is that the two sides in the gun debate are more different than any two populations that we could identify as having different viewpoints on any public policy issue at all.  When it comes to gun violence, incidentally, what’s funny is that we all seem able to discuss in reasonable tones whether as a country we need to have a ready supply of really big weapons – planes, tanks, nukes – to make the world a safer place.  It’s when we get down to safety on our own street corners with the little weapons that rhetorical ugliness and angry epithets tend to shape the debate.

Somehow over the last twenty years the reaction to people getting killed or injured with guns has turned ugly, raucous and mean.  But hasn’t the discussion of all policy issues become more nasty and abrasive since a certain Kenyan signed a lease at for an apartment in the People’s House?

The issue of gun rights has become not just about guns but about politics. When most Republicans agree that gun rights are more important than gun safety reform, it’s political. Republican Presidential candidates are tripping all over themselves to be the most extreme NRA supporter. The opposite is happening with the Democratic candidates who are trying to outdo each other to be the one with the worst rating from the NRA. It’s become part of the far right’s take over of the Republican party. The fear and paranoia spewing after our first Black President was elected is not only offensive- it’s frightening.

A friend attended a recent gun show and took photos there, which the gun show operators hate. Why? Because what she got photos of were incendiary bumper stickers, hate posters, Confederate flags, rows and rows of assault rifles for sale, tee shirts for sales with slogans like this: “Hillary for prison, 2016″, ” Liberty Freedom Family My right to own a firearm has  more value than your  entitlement to Food Stamps.” Sellers at gun shows not only sell guns and ammunition they sell fear, hate, insurrectionist ideas and paranoia. In addition, a good number of those sellers are private sellers who most often sell their wares without requiring a background check. That is grounds for fear.

This is the extreme view of gun rights that we are allowing to take over any rational discussion we could be having and deserve to have. But, as Bob Dylan wrote in one of his songs,  “the times, they are a changin’.” His words couldn’t be more appropriate for 2015. From the song lyrics ( linked above):

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Yes, Congress has stalled and a lot of Americans are being hurt because of the snoozing of our politicians. There is a battle for the messaging about gun rights vs. gun safety reform. There shouldn’t be. The two are not mutually exclusive and can co-exist. Tell that to the extremists and your politicians.

America, we need to wake up. We’ve had many wake-up calls over the years. But apparently we have hit the snooze button. We are napping through a serious public health and safety epidemic. I sense that the public is waking up, however. We’ve had #enough.

We’re late for a very important date that can save lives.

More “good guys” with guns

gangster carrying gunI have lived long enough to remember The Untouchables, a book, a movie and a TV series watched by millions. The battle of Elliot Ness and the gangsters was an epic but mostly fictional account of  real life. There were many shootings on the streets and in other public places like restaurants and bars by gangsters in the 1930s prohibition days. It was bloody and vicious. Men carrying guns unloaded bullets hitting intended targets and unintended targets. But it was true then that law enforcement was outgunned on the streets of some cities in America according to the above linked article. (“On the other side was law enforcement, which was outgunned (literally) and ill-prepared at this point in history to take on the surging national crime wave.”)

So far, ordinary citizens have to go through strict regulations to obtain machine guns and silencers. That is because of the 1934 National Firearms Act passed by Congress in part in response to the crime wave of the 1930s. No one wanted to see the carnage unleashed by the gangsters on the streets repeated. And make no mistake, the gun lobby is pushing for looser laws to allow people to purchase machine guns and silencers. It is the slippery slope towards more carnage on our streets. Many states, including mine, have now passed laws allowing for citizens to purchase silencers ( deceptively called suppressors by the gun lobby).

But with the changes to our gun laws to allow ordinary citizens to openly carry firearms, we should re-examine what the reality of open carry laws mean for the safety of the public. This incident in Colorado Springs is the prime example of the insanity and dangerousness of people carrying rifles and other guns openly loaded on the streets of our cities. From the article:

A man marching down the street shot and killed three people on Saturday, before being fatally shot in a gunbattle with police, authorities and witnesses said.

Officers were responding to a report of shots being fired when they spotted a suspect matching the description of the person they were trying to find, Colorado Springs police Lt. Catherine Buckley said. The suspect opened fire, and police fired back, she said.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene as the suspect went down the street with a rifle.

Matt Abshire, 21, told the Colorado Springs Gazette (http://tinyurl.com/p5xpaua) he looked outside his apartment window and saw a man shoot someone with a rifle. He said he ran to the street and followed the man and called police.

The man suddenly turned and fired more shots, hitting two women, Abshire said. Their names and conditions were not available.

It was unclear how many people were wounded in the spree.

Alisha Jaynes told KKTV-TV 11 News (http://tinyurl.com/otg2qgo ) she was at an ATM when she saw a man with a gun walking calmly down the street.

“They yelled, ‘Put the gun down,’ and he turned around, and that’s when they shot at him a good 20 times,” she said. “There was a lot of gunfire.”

In this story about the shooting, it is revealed that one of the victims was a 13 year old boy riding his bike along the street. This is insanity. Is this what was anticipated when the gun lobby got our legislators to pass laws allowing more people to carry loaded guns into more public places? America has been duped. Until we decide we have had #enough, the carnage will continue. “Normalizing” loaded openly carried guns on our streets, in our restaurants, shops and other places is the agenda of the corporate gun lobby and the gun extremists. It’s just NOT normal to be carrying a rifle around on our streets.

Most in law enforcement oppose the open carrying of guns on our public streets for obvious reasons. Florida law enforcement are now dealing with the proposed open carrying of loaded guns:

The officials shudder at the thought of guns on hips of alcohol-fueled revelers at St. Petersburg’s First Friday, spring breakers on Pinellas County beaches and partiers on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. They worry that deputies responding to a conflict won’t know criminal from victim. They worry about children getting hold of guns and criminals stealing them.

The Tampa Bay Times contacted 21 law enforcement leaders in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties to ask their stance on a bill allowing open carry proposed for the 2016 state legislative session. Of the dozen who responded, 10 are opposed to the idea. They include the sheriffs in Pinellas and Hillsborough and police chiefs in cities from Brooksville to St. Petersburg.

“Officers have a tough enough job with the way the world is now,” said Clearwater police Chief Dan Slaughter. “This is just one more element of danger I’d prefer my men and women not have to deal with.”

Are you listening legislators?

We have examples of encounters between people carrying loaded rifles and guns on our streets and law enforcement. Here are just a few:

A Michigan man was reported to police to be carrying a rifle on a Kalamazoo, Michigan street apparently stumbling around and appearing intoxicated.

Texas open carriers have had many encounters with law enforcement, often belligerently baiting the officers and provoking them while filming the encounters.

More open carriers in Texas were booted from a Chili’s restaurant when they came in with their assault rifles on, scaring the customers.

Here are just a few images of these folks.

After years of ordinary citizens walking around with loaded guns openly holstered and more recently, assault type rifles hanging around the backs or chests of brazen gun carriers, it was inevitable that a “bad guy” with a gun would open fire on a street, killing innocent people. Where were the “good guys” to stop this shooting? We don’t know who is a “good guy” and who is a “bad guy” any more.  And that, dear readers, is the trick that has been played on America. The gun lobby is going to have to take responsibility for this carnage soon enough.

Meanwhile, Mike the Gun Guy has blogged about a new website that is selling buttons about what should be done to the NRA. It’s brilliant. We are tired of being polite to the people who threaten, demean, name call, are offensive and harass us ( gun violence prevention advocates). And do remember that they are the folks with the guns. Why should we be polite any more considering the number of people killed in our country while our elected leaders turn their heads from the carnage? An armed society is not a polite society.

Get a spine. Stand up and do something. This is just plain ludicrous and insane.

Where is common sense?

We have enough evidence of our national public health and safety problem to stop some of this lunacy. Dr. Daniel Webster, a leading researcher in the area of gun violence, has written this great article based on his research. His research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is invaluable to the discussion: From the opinion piece written by Dr. Webster:

These tragic mass shootings serve as a grim but resounding bell tower chime in the nation’s public square. But when the ringing fades, the clock ticks on, if quietly. The equivalent of several mass shootings happen every day: 30 homicides and 60 suicides by guns in individual incidents that I’ll never be called to discuss and about which you’ll likely never hear.

That’s 2,700 lives every month – nearly the number lost on 9/11.

The conversations we do have about gun violence are often misleading. In the wake of tragedies like the one in Oregon, for instance, readers are given false choices and reminded that gun control is “a divisive issue” (it is not), even as gun owners who support new laws are rarely heard. The misguided debate pits the gun lobby’s hardliners against advocates for stronger gun laws and allows proponents of weak gun laws to portray background-check requirements for all gun sales as equivalent to unconstitutional government disarming of its citizenry.

The NRA and its supporters want Americans to believe that the choice is between gun ownership and, in essence, gun confiscation. This is a far-fetched framing. We require background checks for all gun sales made by licensed gun dealers, and the system has not been used to create a gun registry or to prevent any person from lawful gun ownership. In fact, federal law expressly prohibits such a registry. Baseless claims of gun confiscation inflame culture wars and stymie the discussion of effective solutions. (…)

A more informed and fruitful discussion about what the United States needs to do to substantially reduce gun violence would abandon these tired frames and take into account the fact that we already have answers to these crucial questions:

  • Do our gun laws allow people with histories of violence, substance abuse and criminality to own and carry guns in public?
  • Do important gaps in our laws make it easy for prohibited persons to obtain guns?
  • Do policies exist that would significantly reduce gun deaths while still allowing law-abiding individuals to have guns?

The answer to each of these questions is, of course, yes.

When laws prohibit gun ownership for a wider share of people who are violent and break laws, fewer people are shot. When we close gaps in the background check system and take seriously the obligation to keep guns from dangerous people, fewer people die.

I’m not merely guessing that these things might happen. Such policy recommendations are backed up by extensive research that I and others have conducted.

We know what the problem is. Every day there is evidence and carnage. It’s past time to demand the obvious common sense solutions. We’ve had #enough. Let’s get to work.

As a post script to this post, I need to add an article about yet another shooting on a college campus leaving one dead in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. When will this end? Were these “good guys” with guns or bad guys? Why wasn’t someone with a lawful permit there to stop the shooting because surely there will be someone at the ready wherever something like this occurs, right?  Maybe the shooter was a law abiding permit holder- time will tell as more information is released. This is the 2nd shooting on a North Carolina college campus in a week.  North Carolina just passed a law allowing guns on college campuses and in bars and restaurants. Everyone will surely be safer. 

UPDATE:

I am not the only incensed person about the open carrier who shot 3 innocent people on the streets of Colorado Springs. This writer used much more direct and less polite language than I in expressing his total disdain for the gun nuts who promote open carrying of guns. Don’t believe the gun nuts when they tell you that it’s a good idea for people to be carrying guns on our streets. They are just plain wrong and as these stupid, dangerous and deadly incidents keep happening, they will have to answer for the bloodshed.

In Florida, a man eating at a Cracker Barrel restaurant was shot “accidentally” by a gun carrier. Looks like the investigation is over. When will those who “accidentally” shoot people in public be held accountable for injuries and being a public safety threat?

We are not safer folks.

America, Presidential debates, the fact free political system and bogus gun arguments

What would president do?Let’s ask our politicians to answer some serious questions about gun violence prevention. Then we can find out who is on the side of public health and safety and who is spouting the bogus arguments of the corporate gun lobby. Avoiding this serious epidemic should not be allowed by the media or the public. It’s time to stand up and ask the questions and get the answers the families of the many gun violence victims deserve.

It’s past time to look at ourselves in the mirror to see the insanity of our American gun culture. Looking carefully reveals all of the hypocrisy and misleading arguments presented to us by the corporate gun lobby and the gun rights extremists. How did this happen? Good question. We are experiencing an interesting time in our country. Take the Donald Trump phenomenon. The linked article likens Trump to a wrestler while everyone else is boxing. Interesting. As we know, professional wrestling has a lot of drama and fakiness to it compared to boxing. I can only be reminded of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura  and what that conjures up for this Minnesotan who lived through his term in office. In the linked article Ventura actually thinks about running again and maybe with Donald Trump. You just can’t make this stuff up.

It’s the fear and paranoia of government that is fueling the political system right now. The fact that Donald Trump, who has never held public office, has no experience with foreign policy or governing anything is surging in the polls should bring us up short. Do we really want someone running for President whose only platform is that he is the greatest and everyone else is stupid?

And what does this have to do with our gun culture? The extreme view of the second amendment that espouses the need for guns to protect oneself from the government and being ready to fight the government has been fueled by the gun lobby for decades. We now have Americans who are heavily armed and ready to fight against their own government. These people believe that their rights extend to allowing them and just about anyone for that matter, to carry their guns openly displayed and loaded, in public. They believe that they should be able to own as many guns as they want and any kind they want, including military style assault rifles.

And this view of the gun culture presents us with many fallacies and false arguments about the second amendment. I have written a lot about Mr. Wayne LaPierre’s lies about the right to bear arms:

For starters, the motto for this year’s convention was: “If they can ban one, they can ban them all.” So fear was the very slogan. Then, the NRA’s Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre upped the fear factor by telling the attendees:“There’s no telling how far President Obama will go to dismantle our freedoms and reshape America into an America that you and I will not even recognize.” Now even assuming Obama wanted to somehow “dismantle our freedoms,” as LaPierre claims, how could Obama do that in the final 18 months of his presidency when the Republicans control the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court?

He can’t, and the NRA knows that. But facts don’t matter when you are trying to scare people (and get their money). In fact, they often get in the way.

Now scaring people (aka lying) about Obama is nothing new for the NRA. It started even before he took office. While Obama was campaigning for president in 2008 he stated that the Second Amendment bestowed a personal right to own guns and that he “will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns.”

Pretty clear, right?  But the NRA publicly claimed that Obama wanted to “ban use of firearms for home self defense” and “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns.” That was simply and utterly a fabrication by the NRA.

But no matter. Lies seem to be OK with certain Americans.

I came across an article about one of the gun rights extremists’ latest lies that I want to write about. Their claim that the Swiss can carry guns and own a lot of guns and yet, their gun death rate is low is bogus. An article in Salon exposes the false claims about guns in Switzerland.

Let’s take a look at what’s actually likely to be going on in that picture. Switzerland’s high rate of gun ownership is tied to the fact that it does not have a standing army so virtually every male citizen is conscripted into the militia where they receive comprehensive weapons training. Since they are a militia, they keep their government issued weapons (without ammunition) at home. Therefore, many of the guns in Swiss homes were issued to them by the government and most Swiss gun owners are highly trained in gun safety. This is in contrast to many untrained American yahoos who hang around Starbucks with loaded AR-15s leaning dangerously against the table top while they sip their mocha frappucino.

When Swiss militia members complete their service they are allowed to keep their weapon once they’ve been approved for an acquisition permit and can prove they have justification for having it. Private ownership of guns, along with ammunition, is also allowed under an acquisition permit with certain restrictions, including against those with criminal records and history of addiction and psychiatric problems. And with a law worthy of Orwell’s worst nightmare, every gun in Switzerland is registered by the government.

The rate of gun deaths in the US doesn’t come anywhere close by comparison to that of Switzerland  where the gun death rate is .77 per 100,000 compared to the U.S. at 2.97 even though there is a large gun ownership percentage.

And what’s more, the Swiss are having some interesting debates about “gun control” and new restrictions after some shootings there. They are not immune to the American gun culture apparently and since there is high gun ownership, they do have some conundrums presented by that fact.

One of the many other bogus arguments concerns women and guns. Again, Mike the Gun Guy gets this analogy right:

If you’re a die-hard, red-meat internet trawler of course you’ve heard of Dana Loesch.  She’s been a helpmate of Glenn Beck, hosts her own radio show and tweets away to a responsive and raucous crew.  Of course she has all the right credentials to promote guns: makes sure you see that little Christian icon that she wears around her neck (stole the idea I suspect from Laura Ingraham), never lets you forget that she’s a good ol’ Southern gal and, in case you thought there was any chance she would let the slightest, liberal influence into her home life, she home-schooled her kids.  It’s a masterful image, made expressly for red-meat consumption, and it figures that sooner or later she’d wind up pimping for the NRA. (…) As for Dana’s comments that she needs a gun to protect her family and her home, a bit of research reveals some facts that negate everything she says.  A survey of 14,000 crime victims reveals that in less than 1% of the criminal attacks did the victim protect themselves with a gun.  And when they did defend themselves, the number of victims who were injured was the same whether or not they had a gun.  Want to know the real reason the ‘media’ doesn’t report all those home invasions where a woman defends her life and sacred honor with a gun?  Because they account for less than 2% of all home invasions, that’s why.

In fact, American women are much more likely to be killed by a gun in homes where a gun is present. I happen to know that one from personal experience after my sister was shot and killed in a domestic dispute. Women in other countries are safer from gun violence ( at least in countries not at war) than women in the U.S. What a sad and tragic reality. And it is reality.

I am pretty tired of fact free arguments and the sad fact that so many people are gullible enough to believe them. Either that, or they are paranoid and fearful enough to believe bogus arguments. We are being dumbed down. The fact that Donald Trump is so far ahead of his opponents is frightening and of great concern.

Donald Trump happens to believe in the bogus corporate gun lobby arguments. Trump waa asked about our gun culture after the horrific shooting of 2 Virginia journalists on live TV. He deflected the question by answering that we have to deal with our mental health system. He’s right about that one. But he offered no solutions nor do those who make this claim want to pony up the funding to actually do something about our broken mental health system. But in the end, that is the bogus argument to get people like Trump and other gun rights extremists off the hook when it comes to actually talking about the gun problem in the U.S. And Trump is singing the same tune as all of the Presidential candidates.

Bogus and shameful.

Trump makes up other stuff or just ignores the facts and spends his time attacking and complaining about an America we once had and can get back again. How will we “get America back” if we are ignoring one of our most serious public health and safety epidemics? Health care professionals are offering us the facts and the research but the bogus arguments from the right are drowning out the facts.

Bogus and shameful.

At least the Democratic candidates are not afraid to talk about the issue. Hillary Clinton is strong on the gun issue as is Martin O’Malley. Bernie Sanders’ position is more complicated and more nuanced for which he has taken some heat.

All I know is that common sense is seriously lacking in today’s world of politics in America. The facts are that 88 Americans a day are dying from gunshot injuries and we’re talking about sending Mexicans back to Mexico and keeping America great. What’s so great about a country that is allowing 32,000 plus Americans die from gun injuries?

I want an America where we talk openly and honestly about our problems and then try to solve them in a reasonable manner with research to back up the problems and the solutions. We don’t have that now, thanks to the far right and gun lobby resistance to dealing with the facts. In fact, attempts to do serious research on important issues of our time like the environment, health care, gun violence and others, is going backwards thanks to the far right according to this article. That really does have to change. I hope you will join with me and join one of the many organizations working on gun violence prevention and gun safety reform and make the changes we all deserve to be safe in our homes and our communities.

There is a Republican presidential primary debate tonight. Any bets on whether the issue of guns and what to do about all of the shootings comes up? If it does, take notes.