It’s exhausting

heavyloadI don't know about you but I have been left mentally exhausted by the political events of this past week. My mind has been scattered and I can't seem to concentrate on much aside from the Trump reality show playing out every day. It's like a soap opera. One must tune in to see the next episode and watch the drama unfold. We have a "drama queen" as  a President. He loves the spotlight and the attention and he demands loyalty and idiotic  support of an agenda that in the mind of many of us is becoming more and more frightening as he digs in and circles the fire. Just now, our very own President lied again about what happened when Obama was President- guns would be taken away. I think he meant Clinton but anyway- he lied and said your guns would be gone.

And two days ago, a new Communications Director at the White House (Anthony Scaramucci) who is actually not yet able to be paid for his new job because he has to sell off his multi-million dollar business, let loose with a tirade of ugliness and profanity that sent a chill into the political air. And, by the way, Scaramucci is actually firing people even though he is not officially on the job. You just can't make this stuff up.

It's exhausting to listen to all of those lies and offensive rhetoric.

So relief is the feeling of today. Also some celebrating that when people organize and get involved and demand change or resist terrible votes on terrible bills, democracy wins.

It's a heavy lift to make sure Americans have access and get affordable health care. It's an exhausting process. But it needs to happen.

It's a heavy lift to get measures to prevent and reduce gun violence in place as well.

As always, many Americans have died from gunshot injuries during this week of health care debate and other debacles- most of them avoidable. In fact at 90 a day, about 630 Americans have died from gunshot injuries since last Friday. That's exhausting.

What appears to be a domestic murder/suicide in Winona, Minnesota led to the death of two young people.  Guns are dangerous. When a gun is available things like this happen on a regular basis. There is no sense to it but it's the American gun culture gone wrong.

Also in Minnesota this week, another small child got access to a loaded gun and shot and injured another child. This is avoidable and senseless. A mother was arrested because every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. From the article:

A 21-year-old woman was arrested in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood Tuesday evening after a child apparently found a gun in her purse and shot a 4-year-old girl in the leg.

The girl was taken to Regions Hospital with a nonlife threatening gunshot wound to her left leg, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesman.

No guns in purses. Period. This is not the first time as we remember the awful incident where a young Idaho child found his mother's gun in her purse and shot and killed her. 

It's exhausting.

Speaking of access to guns by young children and the health care system, here is a new campaign from States United to prevent gun violence in partnership with the Brady Campaign's ASK campaign. Check it out.

Yes, there is a lot of blood. Bullets kill. They do a lot of damage once entering a human body. That is why they are so much more deadly than other weapons. What happens when a bullet goes through the skin and muscle is usually only seen by health care providers, law enforcement, and coroners. It's not pretty. Perhaps if more people became aware of the actual damage to human organs from the bullets they shoot out of their guns intentionally or unintentionally, they would stop thinking  of guns as just tools. They are tools of destruction and death. There really is no way around that.

So a Kentucky  photographer decided to record the damage done by bullets to make it graphic and use it as art. For art imitates life and in the case of shootings, it's powerful stuff. The photographer got more interested in the actual victims of shootings as he proceeded with his project and started memorializing victims in an interesting way through graphs. From The Trace article:

“Murder statistics can become abstract,” he said. “This is a way to remember the victims. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, gun violence was massive, but then it returned to ‘normal’ levels, and it seems like we don’t think about it anymore.” With HAIL, he hopes to make the consequences of gun fire are harder to forget.

It is impossible to forget the consequences if you have lost a loved one to gun violence. Survivors of gun injuries never forget the impact of a bullet and the damage done leaving many of them forever disabled. Rep. Gabby Giffords is just one high profile walking example of the destruction of bullets. James Brady, now dead from the decades long effects of his gunshot injuries after being shot by a man who tried to assassinate President Reagan is another. They are the walking wounded, or in many cases, they can't walk any more.

Bullets do a lot of damage. The results of shootings cause grief, pain, devastation and costs to Americans. Victims and survivors undergo medical services for their injuries and recovery and often forever. Mental health services help family members with how to live on after a heinous shooting. Court costs are also costs to tax payers.

Health care, gun violence, economic, political, elections, non-profits, and many other issues and problems come together and are in need of solutions. Unlike the health care bill debacle brought to us by a President, Senators and Representatives who had only their own win and ideology behind their bills, there are common sense solutions. But like the health care debacle, it has become so political and divisive that solutions seem to be far off.

It doesn't have to be this way. If we are all about doing what's best for all of us to keep us healthy, safe, having enough money to feed and clothe our families, educating our children and young adults, providing jobs with living wages, taking care of our environment to preserve it for our children and grandchildren, then we will do the right thing.

Everyone wants to be safe from gun violence. We are not all safe. Everyone needs and wants good affordable health care. The ACA was a start but needs fixing, not repealing and replacing. Everyone wants a good job that has benefits and can provide for their families. Everyone wants their kids to be well educated. Everyone wants to retire gracefully and with dignity.

This is a time to reflect on where we have gone awry on so many issues and concerns. We are lurching towards a country that is not a democracy. We are living with a man at the helm who cares more about his own ego and image than he does about the people he represents. The ugliness, the language, the accusations, the verbal attacks, the tone deafness when speaking to a group of young boys, the angry tweeting, the attacks against the GLBTQ community, the attacks on minorities and immigrants, the taking apart of regular order, the destruction of the office of the Presidency, the violent and threatening rhetoric, the ignorance, the lying, the lack of attention to our national security, the lack of resolve to stop a foreign country from interfering with our elections, the blaming of others for one's own faults and shortcomings, the lack of accountability and more are becoming more frightening.

We need to take our country back. We need to stop the violence. We need to stop the threats and the vulgar public language. We need to feel safe in our own communities. We need to hold our leaders accountable for their mistakes and their ignorance.

It's exhausting to wake up to chaos every day. If that is the plan, it's working. If not, it's unacceptable and should stop before we go off the cliff.

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't need to be exhausted every day.

We can do something positive. For example, in Minnesota law enforcement is working with gun sellers and gun owners to make sure guns are safely stored against stealing. This seminar reinforced Minnesota's stringent storage laws for licensed dealers. There should be the same for home gun owners but so far, there is not. There could be.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek opened the seminar with remarks that charted a link between a recent uptick in violent crime and firearms hitting the streets from thefts or straw purchases, in which a stand-in buys a firearm for someone who’s been banned from making such a purchase.

“I’m asking you, I’m pleading with you,” Stanek told the firearms dealers, “when you go home at night, lock up those firearms.”

Usset expressed skepticism that large sellers would have the time every evening to lock away each of their long guns.

But he said he’s been securing his handguns before going home each evening since burglary 22 years ago.

“Because when they break in that’s what they’re after,” he said.

If it means saving lives, is it too much to ask to lock up ALL guns? Seems like a good idea to me.

Gun violence is also exhausting to the families, the victims and the survivors. Working to end gun violence is also exhausting. But there are courageous people who continue the fight no matter what because they don't want a lost life to lead to despair. Instead, they are working towards hope and a solution to our nation's public health epidemic.

Watch this story told by one of the survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

Angel's need for health care is great after he was shot and injured. Without health care, how do the victims get the care they need? Why would we deny them coverage? They are victims of senseless shootings and a gun culture gone wrong. America has more mass shootings and everyday shootings than any other democratized country not at war. We also have among the worst guaranteed affordable health care of almost all of those democratized countries.

Health care is a right. Being safe from gun violence is a right.

It's exhausting but, nevertheless, we will persist.

#WhyIMarch

photo of BarbaraI will be going to Washington DC on a bus from Duluth, Minnesota. There are two full buses of women traveling by bus who will sleep and eat on the bus to make our voices heard. We could have filled a third bus but the company could not find enough buses for those interested. In addition to the two full buses ( about 106 riders) there is another bus sponsored by a different group and a large group who are flying to DC. 8 buses are traveling from the Twin Cities area as well. There are now 1800 buses registered to arrive at RFK stadium Saturday morning and at least 200,000 who will be in DC to make sure the incoming President @realDonaldTrump understands that we will not sit back and allow issues that affect women and children to be weakened and eliminated.

Why do we march?

Why are we willing to sleep for 2 nights on a bus with other like minded women? Each person on the bus will have their own reason to march.

We march in solidarity with women concerned about the many issues that will be under attack starting on Jan. 20th.

We are concerned and even alarmed at the campaign rhetoric and now the rhetoric of a man who will be our next President. We know that we must raise our voices to let the incoming administration hear our message about women’s  rights and all we have held dear and worked for over the last 8 years. Progress was made. We don’t want it to be taken away.

I march in memory of my beautiful sister, whose shooting death in a domestic shooting almost 25 years ago now has left a vacuum in my life and a burning passion to prevent gun violence. Unfortunately Congress and elected leaders have been working on opposing life saving measures like Brady background checks, public health and safety education about guns, safe storage, stopping bad apple gun dealers, and ways to keep women and our communities safer from gun violence.

 

My sister, Barbara Lund,  would have done this for me and for her family. She was a loving mother and friend- someone who brought people together. Her life was taken suddenly and violently in a domestic shooting during a difficult divorce. My ex brother-in-law, now deceased, shot her out of anger and depression. A gun(s) was available to him and he chose to use it. Women are much more likely to die in a domestic dispute when a gun is present in the home:

Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries. The presence of a firearm during a domestic violence incident increases the likelihood of a homicide by 500 percent. Guns are also regularly used in non-fatal incidents of domestic violence, with researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health concluding in a study from 2000 that “hostile gun displays against family members may be more common than gun use in self-defense, and that hostile gun displays are often acts of domestic violence directed against women.”

And yet the myth that guns make women safer persists.

Myths will prevail when the corporate gun lobby takes a seat at the table of the incoming President. Governing by myth will make us less safe.

That should concern us all.

90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries from homicides, suicides and accidental discharges.  Women, children, young black men, older white men, toddlers, everyone. Everyone is at risk if we weaken our gun laws even more under the new administration.

#Enough

We will march because women play an integral role in keeping their communities and their children safe from devastating gun violence.

My sister’s story is the story of many women across America. It is the story that we shouldn’t have to tell but we are a reluctant group of members of a club of families of gun violence victims. We are victims. We are survivors. We will be marching for common sense.

I have met many people who have marched, lobbied, advocated for, organized for, pleaded for, cried for, written about, been interviewed about a lost loved one and for stronger gun laws that could save lives. They know that passing stronger laws can save lives.

One of my fellow Minnesota advocates, Rachael Joseph, has done all of the above in memory of her aunt who was shot and killed by a family member in 2003. She will be marching on Saturday. Here are Rachael’s words and a photo of her aunt:

“I’m marching in Washington D.C. for my aunt, Shelley Joseph-Kordell who was shot and killed at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, MN on September 29, 2003. Gun violence in this country is a women’s issue. Gun violence disproportionately affects women, who are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed in America than in any other developed nation.  I’ll march because women are the vast majority of mass shooting victims, which more often than not involves domestic violence. In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by a current or former partner. As a survivor, a woman and as a mom, I demand safety for our families and communities. The gun lobby’s leadership agenda is a direct threat to women everywhere. I am marching to send a message to our nation’s leaders – in Congress, in statehouses and in corporate boardrooms across the country – that women will not stand on the sidelines while our safety and the safety of our families and communities is jeopardized by the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda to allow guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime – no questions asked. I’ll march until women and children in this country feel safe.”

Rachael and I and many others will march in DC and cities all over America ( and the world for that matter) to demand that our elected officials do something to cut gun deaths in half by 2025. It can be done. Will they have the will? Will they find the way? We are concerned that a new administration and Congress will not only not have the will but will make us less safe by weakening our gun laws.

rachaels-auntRachael’s aunt would be proud of her niece’s activism and advocacy.

In memory of Shelley and Barbara.

We will march and we will not forget.

Comment storm about gun incident

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A few posts ago I wrote about active shooters and how we use the term. Little did I know that gun rights advocates would come so unglued about a post on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page that used the term active shooter because of a gun incident in a small town in Minnesota that was initially described that way. 

In the last few weeks, we have had far too  many instances of active shooters and shootings taking the lives of many. I guess some folks only consider active shootings to be mass shootings. In my previous blog post, I suggested that every shooting is an active shooter incident since by  their very nature, they involve the action of someone with a lethal weapon that shoots bullets from a gun, often at another human being.

So the post of the gun incident on the Facebook page of concern was one where a man went outside of his house, shot 2 shots from his gun into the ground and then went back inside. Of course, there was a report of shots fired. No one was sure what happened. Was it inside of the home? What was it about? Was anyone at risk? Who knew? Every day in America people are shot inside and outside of their homes. And hearing gunshots has become the new normal but also a reason for people who hear them to fear the worst.

In the end, the man was found asleep and drunk during the morning hours after the gun discharge and  was charged with a domestic disturbance. A 7 week old baby was inside.

Gunshots were, of course, fired recently in Minnesota leading to the death of a young black man named Philando Castile. Because of this shooting, protests have been happening all over America and now, as I write, there is a service in Dallas to honor the 5 police officers shot by a lone gunman who was upset by the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. The news is full of stories about all of this and I have written before about them. There is so much to say and it is being written about and talked about every day all over our country.

But was the news full of the incidents like the one in north Minneapolis after the shooting of Philando Castile, when 2 babies were shot and one died? A 2 year old is dead and a 15 month old is injured. Another active shooting. More gunshots. More death.

There was some mention on the news of the shooting in a Michigan court house when an inmate grabbed an officer’s gun and shot and killed 2 bailiffs. In the ensuing gunfire, the shooter was also shot. Another active shooting. More gunshots. 3 more dead.

Whether or not the gun rights advocates object to the idea that shootings are active events is no matter really. The shooting incident n the small town of Elko in Minnesota could easily have ended in injury or death. When a gun is available in domestic situations, when someone has been drinking, when someone is angry, when someone wants to “solve a problem”, it often ends badly.

But some of the commenters on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page thought it was just another small town incident that should be ignored. Really? Should we ignore a drunk person who could have just as easily have injured or killed family members with that gun? Then what would we have called the incident?

Shootings are not passive. They are active.There is action when a bullet is activated by the gun trigger. The trigger pulled by someone who is actively pulling it causes the action of the bullet rapidly moving through the gun barrel in order to find its’ target.

I suggest that if someone does not like the idea of active shootings referring to all shooting incidents, they ought to consider, as many of them say, that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. They sure do. People with guns have taken action far too many times to kill others.

A little common sense, or a lot for that matter, will go a long way to making sure people aren’t being shot on a daily basis. There are no excuses for anyone shooting off a gun recklessly.

When I read some of the ugly comments made by some of the commenters it was pretty clear that they wanted to shout out their views and they were angry. Many were deleted by the page administrators for good reason. Who needs that kind of attack? That hatred? That kind of language? That anger? The untruths expressed with no facts to back them up? The attempt to take over the discussion as is often the case on blogs, Facebook pages and articles about gun violence prevention is common. And it is almost always ugly and offensive.

This is no way to stop the shootings. It only adds to the divisiveness of any reasonable discussion about how to save lives and prevent shootings.

Comments and discussion are one thing if they are meant to openly discuss differences and come to solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. We are not just talking about a small problem here. We are talking about 90 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries. We are talking about young black men being killed by officers and by other young black men. We are talking about police officers being killed by black men, white men, inmates and others. We are talking about domestic disputes that often end in death. We are talking about the thousands of people who take their own lives with guns every year. We are talking about our toddlers and children shooting others or themselves. We are talking about intolerant and angry young men shooting gay people, young children, theater goers and college students and shoppers with guns, often easily obtained. We are talking about people on known terror watch lists being able to access guns without our being able to stop them. We are talking about felons, domestic abusers, those who are dangerously mentally ill, fugitives and others who can buy guns every day with no background checks. We are talking about what should be peaceful protests over shootings turning violent themselves. We are talking about our police officers being outgunned on the streets and fearing for their own lives. We are talking about the fact that officers understand that almost anyone they encounter could be armed. We are talking about the fact that too many people have armed themselves out of fear of the government and/or law enforcement. We are talking about fear and paranoia and mistrust of others. We are talking about open carriers walking around during the Dallas protest with assault rifles over the shoulders confusing police when the shooting began. 

Who are the good guys with guns any more?

We have a serious problem. That is what comments should be about. How can we solve this problem together?

And speaking of action, there has been little of it in Congress regarding gun violence. Action is needed and needed immediately.

We are better than this. Americans are nearing a tipping point and becoming more and more impatient with the leaders at the state and federal level who could do something about our national crisis of active shootings but instead have become passive out of fear of the corporate gun lobby.

In fact, over 1 million petitions to Congress to act on a new ban on assault type rifles  were delivered today to Congress members on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Here is a tweet and photo of the petition delivery from MoveOn.org.

Americans are fed up. They want a change to the laws, a change to our gun culture, a change to our conversation and a change to the every day shootings.

#Enough.

#DisArmHate

About flying bullets

bullet holesYes, it’s true. There are bullets literally flying around in some of our neighborhoods at will with no end in sight. Eventually they stop but they really don’t know where to stop and sometimes stop in an unintended place. Of course, if bullets stop at an intended target, that is also very bad and often deadly.

The gun rights advocates love to refer to Chicago and all of the gun deaths there to make their case that Chicago ( and Illinois) have strong gun laws, so why all the deaths? That’s a good question.

A recent senseless shooting, as if they all are not, points to the ease with which guns fall into the hands of those who intend harm. A young Chicago area teen who had participated in a campaign to end the violence, was shot in the back by a stray bullet in his neighborhood. The bullet was apparently intended for someone else who could have also been killed or injured. This young boy will never be the same. Nor will his family and friends. He was trying to stop the very thing that happened to him from happening. From the article with a quote from the shot boy- Zarriel Trotter:

In a 2015 public service announcement, Trotter spoke out against gun violence.

“I don’t want to live in my community where I have to keep on hearing of people getting shot and people getting killed,” Trotter said in the video.

Good grief.

Why are so many bullets flying in some of our communities? Where are the guns and bullets coming from?

For one thing, all guns start out as legal purchases. Guns go from manufacturers to licensed gun dealers where they are sold with background checks. Private sellers get their gun collections (hopefully) by undergoing background checks at a federally licensed firearms dealer and then often sell them to people who are not required to undergo a background check in most states. It’s easy. Just like that a transaction is made with no background check and the seller has no idea to whom he/she is selling a deadly weapon.

For some reason, the gun rights extremists love to claim that this does not happen. But in most states, in fact, it does. In Illinois, since I brought it up earlier, all gun sales require background checks or verification of a Firearms Owner Identification card at gun shows-even private sellers. So then, where are the guns coming from that are used in the many shootings in Chicago neighborhoods? Presumably the shooters and those committing crimes are not law abiding gun owners?

Gun trafficking from states with looser gun laws, is, of course, the undeniable answer to the question. This great article from The Trace shows the map of recovered crime guns and from where they enter the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. A small number even come from my state of Minnesota. Apart from private no background check sales, straw purchasing and allowing illegal sales also provides guns to our streets. So “bad apple” gun shops like Chuck’s Gun Shop and Pistol Range in Riverdale outside of Chicago provide many of the crime guns used to kill innocent people inside the city of Chicago. A small number of gun shops like Chuck’s in states all over our country, knowingly allow straw purchasing or other bad practices that provide guns to those who shouldn’t have them. From the article:

The suit claims that the stores are not forced to be vigilant about sales to minors and to straw purchasers—those who buy guns for others who aren’t allowed to. The stores are immune from lawsuits for the results of their gun sales thanks to a law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, pushed through Congress in October 2005 at the behest of the gun industry. So the plaintiffs are going after the cities where the stores are located to force them to institute common sense rules to prevent improper gun sales. In Illinois, municipal governments, not the state, are responsible for making such laws.

But something can be done about this. So why not? If the gun lobby is correct that criminals can always get guns, why would they object to common sense measures to make sure they don’t get them?  Here are the measures demanded in the above mentioned law suit against the bad apple gun dealers:

The suit suggests several changes in the cities’ gun ordinances. As outlined by the Tribune, they are:

–Mandating background checks for all gun store employees;

–Deterring theft through adequate surveillance and exterior lighting;

–Training managers and employees to identify signs of straw purchasing;

–Requiring dealers to maintain an alphabetical log of all gun sales where the gun was later recovered at a crime;

–Requiring mandatory inspections of a store’s inventory to help detect theft and trafficking of guns, and;

–Requiring video cameras to record the point of sale to discourage buyers who may use false identification.

But in a depressing admission to reality, here is a quote from the article: “The suit will be a tough one to win, according to George Mocsary, a law professor at Southern Illinois University who specializes in firearms law. He told the Tribune that for a civil rights claim to work, there generally has to be an intent to harm a particular individual or community, such as African-Americans.  “I suspect that it will be dismissed,” he said.”

Sigh.

Further, the gun lobby has made sure that the ATF- the agency responsible for monitoring and regulating licensed dealers, is vastly understaffed and underfunded. Why? Good question for which I don’t have an answer. From the article:

“If you want an agency to be small and ineffective at what it does, the ATF is really the model,” says Robert J. Spitzer, author of The Politics of Gun Control. Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland, says the ATF’s critics, in particular the National Rifle Association (NRA), have been “extremely successful at demonizing, belittling and hemming in the ATF as a government regulatory agency.” The result, he says, is an agency with insufficient staff and resources, whose agents are “hamstrung” by laws and rules that make it difficult or impossible to fulfill their mission.

So we have an agency that could make this better but thanks to the ever deceptive gun lobby, they are “hamstrung” in their job. Lives are being lost every day thanks in part to these ludicrous efforts to actually stop us from preventing gun deaths and injuries.

The sad reality is that young people in communities of color in large urban cities are affected by gun violence in greater numbers than their counterparts. This is not OK. We know that gun violence can strike anyone of any race, age, or socioeconomic level. Domestic violence, suicides and homicides occur everywhere. But we also know that we must address the availability of guns in affected communities if we are to be serious about saving at least some lives. In my state of Minnesota, young children of color have been killed by stray bullets flying around in their neighborhoods, leaving families to mourn the lost potential of their children.

One June night of 2012, Terrell Mayes, Jr., 3 years old, of Minneapolis, was hit by a bullet that came through the siding of his home. He died. From the article:

“You keep ’em in, you keep ’em in, but yet and still that bullet, that devil, came right through the wall and took my baby,” said Marsha Mayes,…..”

Babies dying from bullets…..

This article suggests that gunfire is common in the neighborhood where 3 year old Terrell was shot and killed. Are we at war? Gunshots should not be common in any of our communities. Is there any explanation at all for how an 11 year old girl can be shot and killed by a stray bullet while she is sitting in her home doing her homework as happened to Tyesha Edwards of St. Paul in 2002?

There is no explanation for this kind of senseless violence. Even passing stronger gun laws will not change some of this. We don’t have throw- away lives. Our children are our future. We must protect them from violent and avoidable deaths.

A gun culture that has been formed over many years’ time and with the help of a corporate gun lobby that wields too much money and influence will be difficult to change. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s past time for far too many. But lives can be saved with common sense and resolve. No one should be afraid to challenge the false notions that we shouldn’t do anything about our national public health epidemic because it won’t work. If that were the case, we wouldn’t try to solve any of our public health and safety problems. Life would be a free for all with no laws or rules for anything. People would be dying from all kinds of preventable diseases and accidents. That is not who we are as Americans.

It’s a ridiculous deception that nothing can change because of the second amendment. The second amendment to our Constitution was written before 90 Americans a day died from gunshot injuries due to homicides, suicides and “accidental” discharges or shootings. It was written before the common sale of semi-automatic assault type guns to average citizens. It was written before there were 300 million plus guns in the hands of Americans. It was written before regular mass shootings in our schools and public places. It was written before some of our leaders decided it was a good idea for just anyone to be able to buy guns without making sure they are people who should be prohibited from having a gun. It was written before the “wisdom” of the corporate gun lobby pushed our state legislators to pass laws to allow people to carry loaded guns around into every nook and cranny of our communities. You get the picture.

We’ve had #Enough of this. Communities and organizations working together can change the conversation and change the culture about guns and gun violence. As long as guns and bullets are so available and seen as “necessary” in some communities, our children will be at risk. Perhaps when children and teens see adults getting serious about addressing the violence epidemic, they will model what they see. For
every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first come through the hands of an adult.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Stand up and demand change.
  • Join an organization working for change.
  • Talk about the risk of guns in the home.
  • ASK if there are guns where your children or teens hang out.
  • Store your guns safely away from children and teens and to keep them from being stolen.
  • Talk to your friends during difficult domestic issues to make sure guns are not readily available.
  • Tell your legislators and Congress members that you expect them to support legislation to require background checks on all gun sales.
  • Support other legislation to make sure guns are not easily accessible to domestic abusers, felons, those adjudicated mentally ill, gang members, and others who should not have guns.

 

Together we can do this.

 

UPDATE:

Of course, it was a holiday week-end but one wouldn’t anticipate that 5 people were shot in Minneapolis over the holiday. It’s true. And some truly stunning facts:

The shooting comes as gun-related violence has risen in Minneapolis — much like in other Midwestern cities, such as Cleveland and Chicago.

Fifty-four people have been shot in Minneapolis through March 21, the last day for which police data were available, an 86 percent increase over the same period last year. In north Minneapolis alone, 43 people were injured in shootings, compared with 15 last year, police records show.

Meanwhile, the city is also coping with a rise in violent crime, which has jumped 5.3 percent compared to this time last year. In downtown, serious crimes like aggravated assaults and rapes have increased 21 percent, while the Second and Third police precincts have seen a sharp rise in the number of robberies, records show.

Bullets flew in Minneapolis last week-end. One dead and 4 injured. It’s time for that to stop.

Why gun research matters

ПечатьGuns matter. Gun deaths matter. Gun laws matter. Lives matter. Data matters. Research matters. Facts matter. What is becoming more and more necessary is good research into the causes and effects of gun violence in America.

Remember that Congress passed a law in 1996 to stifle and halt research by the CDC into what causes so much gun violence in our country. Representative Jay Dickey, who at the time pushed this law, was beholden to the corporate gun lobby and did their bidding. Now that he doesn’t have to worry about their bullying tactics any more he understands that the law was detrimental to our public health and safety and has said so publicly. Good for him. Let’s take a look:

“It is my position that somehow or someway we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached,” he wrote in a letter released through the office of Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). “Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.” (…)

The former GOP congressman, 75, reached at home Thursday, said “political purposes” should have never gotten in the way of the issue. He conceded he “should have done something” to see that the research continue.

NRA LOBBYING LED TO LAW THAT STOPPED CDC FROM USING FEDERAL FUNDS TO STUDY GUN VIOLENCE

“Research will lead us to a solution,” Dickey said. “I have no idea what it’s going to be. I just couldn’t stay quiet any longer. It doesn’t look like anybody else is trying to get a solution.”

Dickey compared gun violence to car accidents. Highway regulation and research aren’t meant to deter car ownership — they’re meant for safety, he said.

“(Gun violence) is an insidious social problem that we have in America, and it’s getting worse, in my opinion,” he said.

Dickey said he was “almost numb” as reports emerged of Wednesday’s shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in which 14 people were killed and 21 wounded.

“It’s just a shame … innocent people,” he said.

But years after that law went into effect, public shootings of 6 year olds in a school, Christian black people in churches, Muslims in homes, journalists on live TV, people sitting in movie theaters, horrendous domestic homicide/suicides, gang shootings in our inner cities, increased numbers of gun suicides by teens and rural white men, and toddlers killing themselves on a regular basis, the carnage continues unabated.

Former Representative Dickey spoke truth to power. He is right. It’s insidious and a shame. Too many innocent people are dying.

Others are doing the much needed research and presenting us with the proof that gun laws matter and can prevent some of the nation’s shootings. This New York Times comprehensive article, replete with useful charts and information, should be required reading for legislators and Congress:

In the past decade, Missouri has been a natural experiment in what happens when a state relaxes its gun control laws. For decades, it had one of the nation’s strongest measures to keep guns from dangerous people: a requirement that all handgun buyers get a gun permit by undergoing a background check in person at a sheriff’s office.

Here is one of the incredible graphs disproving the gun lobby’s argument that strict gun laws don’t matter. Gun trafficking from state to state is easy because we have made it easy. And thus, even if states or cities pass strong laws, gun violence continues. It’s a slippery slope.

Well researched graphs, maps and charts help us understand the causes and effects of our insidious and shameful national public health epidemic. For example:

An interactive map of where licensed gun dealers are located in the country makes it easy to find out how many there are near you.  As it turns out, there are more of them than there are grocery stores or McDonalds restaurants. It’s actually pretty darned convenient to find a gun dealer to do a Brady background check.

Minneapolis and St. Paul have had more gun homicides this year than in past years. And here’s a map to show where the shootings occurred:

More than 11 months later, with 2016 approaching, Minneapolis has seen 49 homicides this year, according to city data, considerably more than the 32 recorded in 2014 and the most since 2006.

St. Paul recorded 17 homicides in 2015, including a victim who died this year of an injury sustained in 2012, up from 13 in 2014.

Of the 65 homicides in both cities, 49 involved firearms. The rest were either stabbings or beatings.

The gun lobby often argues that guns are not responsible for the most homicides. They are wrong. Also, many of these gun deaths are happening in our core urban cities with the impacted communities being people of color.

Why does any of this matter? Because if we truly are serious about preventing the carnage, we need data to help us with solutions. Silencing research on guns and gun violence has a deadly affect on our communities. The corporate gun lobby’s insidious influence on policy is leading to devastating gun deaths and injuries.

We make it far too easy for citizens who shouldn’t have access to guns to get them anyway. Laws matter. With stronger laws will come a stronger public resolve that we take this seriously and we care about innocent people getting shot in our homes, schools, shopping malls, parking lots, hospitals, at holiday parties, churches, military bases, government buildings, etc. And please do remember that some of the shooters in these places obtained their guns legally. That is because in America we have such a cavalier and twisted outlook and attitude about guns because….. rights, because…. Congress, because…..second amendment absolutists, because…. corporate gun lobby, that there is a total lack of common sense.

More data lets us know which large cities have seen the most shootings of civilians by officers. Police departments all over America, including in Minneapolis, have been under fire for shootings of citizens, often black citizens. Looking at the data and learning from it can make our large cities safer.

It’s important to understand shootings by officers and shootings of officers so our communities can better deal with insidious gun violence that plagues our largest urban areas.

Here is information about how many officers have been killed in the line of duty and an interesting fact is that firearms have caused fewer deaths of officers in 2015 than in 2014. Traffic accidents have accounted for an increased number of officer deaths. And “other causes” have increased 70% over 2014. It seems like this is important information for the safety of officers while on duty.

Why again do we not want research and data on the subject of gun violence? You will have to ask people who hang around with the corporate gun lobby and your elected leaders. The answer is very important to public health and safety.

And while we are waiting for common sense to break out these are the daily reports in the media, on the internet or on blogs:

“Law abiding” DC area gun owner gets impatient when a holiday shopper has trouble with his credit card at an exit of a shopping mall and shoots at the man.

 

A Washington state man was arrested for possession an illegal gun and saying he wanted a .50 caliber rifle to shoot officers:

Today, the assistant U.S. attorney told the judge that Barbeau was trying to buy a .50 caliber rifle that would be quote “advantageous” in a shootout with law enforcement. And that he was seen in photos posing next to explosives that federal agents have yet to locate.

But hey, what’s the problem? These are readily available anywhere for the most part and his friends and family believe he is just trying to exercise his rights:

But his family says Barbeau is just trying to protect the rights of his fellow citizens, and sometimes gets caught up in inflammatory rhetoric.

“He gets pretty emotional when things are happening and injustices are happening around him. And he tends to say some things that maybe I wouldn’t say,” said Milam. ” But I don’t believe at all that he is out to start there is any part of him that is out to start anything with anybody.”

I, for one, am glad this guy is not on the loose with his guns.

Data matters. In the case above, the FBI had been following this guy because of threats to police officers. Not OK. Home grown terrorists have been responsible for more than a few high profile shootings in our country.

Research is happening now despite the gun lobby’s distaste for it and their resistance to facts. The tired old NRA and corporate gun lobby arguments are going to fall on deaf ears soon enough. Armed with research and facts, our country will demand, as the majority already have, that our leaders get down to business and do their jobs to keep us safe from devastating gun violence and terror attacks. This is not rocket science.

 

Armed America- not polite at all

polite?An armed society is a polite society? Anyone with common sense knows this to be untrue. Let’s look at an article in “The Truth About Guns” about this oft used statement:

The accuracy of that image of an “armed/polite” society in the 19th Century West is not only debatable, it’s irrelevant: There are plenty of “armed societies” in the modern-day world, and most of them can be described as anything but “polite.” (…)

But there’s another problem with the “Armed society=Polite society” equation. Assume arguendo that the saying is true. Ignore the above evidence to the contrary and say, for the moment, that people are more polite when they know there’s lots of heat being packed.

What does that say about us, as gun owners? After all, the tiresome refrain of all anti-concealed-carry arguments is that if more ‘ordinary’ people are packing pistols, they will whip them out and start firing on the flimsiest pretext. Cut me off in traffic? BLAM! Take the last drop of half-and-half at Starbucks? BLAM! Look at me funny? BLAM!

Gun owners [rightly] view this assumption as dangerous nonsense, that the vast majority of people jumping through all the hoops necessary to obtain a CCW permit are sober, rational, and caring adults who would never allow their emotions to take hold of them and cause them to use deadly force inappropriately. Even when they’re not sober, rational or caring.

But doesn’t that Heinlein aphorism say otherwise? Doesn’t it imply, at least on its face, that the whole reason an armed society is a polite society is that in an armed society, the penalty for “impoliteness” might be summary execution?

So this gun owning blogger believes that the statement is generally wrong but he offers a qualifier:

If anything, the saying is backwards. Being “polite”—having a shared set of values that includes placing a high value on peaceful civic discourse—is a necessary pre-condition for the arming of a society. Arms in a “polite” society remain the tools of good citizens to defend themselves against bad ones. But arming a society without those shared values is a recipe for chaos, for violence for, well, Somalia, Beirut, Pakistan et al.

“An armed society is a polite society” sounds cute. It sounds witty and cool.  It impresses all the gun enthusiasts on the bulletin boards. It makes for a great t-shirt to wear at the gun show. But it’s just not true and if it was, it would be a bigger argument against arming ordinary citizens than anything the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence could possibly devise.

Hmmmm. So the problem with the writer’s logic is that everyone in America who has a permit to carry a gun has shared values. The arguments are mounting every day in our country against this argument. It’s not just the Brady Campaign “devising” the arguments. The public has had #enough. And the writer ignores the fact that the gun rights extremists are pushing for permit less carry in many states and some already have this dangerous law. The public is not clamoring for these laws. It’s the corporate gun lobby who represents an decreasing minority of gun owners who push these laws in state legislatures:

Given its high profile, it’s easy to assume that the NRA represents the voice of American gun owners. But in fact, the organization’s membership numbers and survey data point a different picture. Only a small fraction of the nation’s gun owners are NRA members. Even among NRA members, there is widespread dissent from some key points of the organization’s orthodoxy. And on many gun control issues, the majority of gun owners who aren’taffiliated with the NRA hold opinions closer to those of non-gun owners than to those of NRA members.

Let’s start with the membership numbers. In recent years the NRA has said it has 5 million dues-paying members. There’s some reason to be skeptical of this figure, but let’s assume 5 million is right.  Those 5 million members only comprise somewhere between 6 and 7 percent of American gun owners. That would imply that the overwhelming majority of American gun owners — over 90 percent of them — do not belong to the NRA.

1 in 10 gun owners belong to the NRA. Amazing. Take note elected leaders. As I spent time at a table at a local conference attended by 2600 people, I spent some time talking to gun owners who agreed with the literature we were passing out and our views on the issue of gun violence prevention. None of the people we talked to belonged to the NRA and, in fact, they said they don’t like the organization at all. One man told me that the gun rights extremists, like open carriers, are ruining it for the rest of the law abiding gun owners and hunters who just want to use their guns for hunting and sport. They believe in safety and saving lives before they pledge allegiance to an organization that does not represent them.

But I digress.

Let’s take a look at the last week of the American armed and impolite society.

The Minneapolis- St. Paul area have seen at least 5 gun deaths in the last week. That was before the most recent week-end shootings:

And if that was not enough, an Aitken area Sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed by a suspect who had terrorized his wife days before. The man had been hospitalized because of concern about his behavior. More from the story:

A week before he killed an Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy at the St. Cloud Hospital, felon Danny L. Hammond, 50, terrorized his wife and threatened to kill her after she told him she wanted to leave their marriage of 12 years, authorities said.

Korena Hammond told authorities that her husband went into a rage on Oct. 10 after she told him her plans. He held her hostage at their home overnight, pointing a 9-millimeter pistol at her head, forcing her to eat food that he said was poisoned and capturing her when she managed to flee the locked house. The next morning she went to her father’s house after Hammond agreed to let her go, according to a criminal complaint released Monday. (…)

A week later, Hammond was at St. Cloud Hospital early Sunday morning. He was not in custody at the time, and was being treated for medical reasons related to a domestic incident, according to authorities. Hammond was being supervised by law enforcement at the request of hospital staff.

According to the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Hammond got out of bed and then struggled with Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven M. Sandberg, 60. He somehow took control of Sandberg’s gun and fired several shots. Sandberg was fatally struck by at least one bullet. A St. Cloud Hospital security guard shot Hammond with a Taser. Hammond fell unconscious as a result and despite lifesaving efforts died in the hospital.

This is yet another case of domestic abuse that could have ended with the shooting of this man’s wife but instead tragically ended with the shooting of a law enforcement officer. And the old myth of an armed person being able to protect him/herself is proven wrong over and over again by incidents such as this one. The officer got into a fight with the suspect but the suspect got his hands on the deputy’s gun and was able to shoot him. It’s not the first time this has happened. Being armed does not guarantee that one can keep oneself safe.

It’s not only Minnesota. These kinds of incidents are happening everywhere. You can’t make some of them up because they point to the risk of guns in public places and in homes.

I am adding this one which just crossed my “desk”. A new gun permit holder shot himself in the leg while attending a movie in a Kansas theater:

A man was transported to Salina Regional Health Center on Friday night after he apparently accidentally shot himself in the leg midway through a movie at Central Mall.

Salina Police Department watch commander Sean Furbeck said the incident remains under investigation, but the gunshot wound likely was self-inflicted. He said police were not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident, which occurred at about 8:30 p.m. in one of the small theaters behind the ticket sales area. (…) “I feel really sorry that guy shot himself, but at least he didn’t shoot someone else,” Myers said. “That would have been 10 times worse.”

10 times worse. We have had 10 times worse actually. Remember the Aurora theater shooting?

Let’s start with a shooting at a ZombieCon event in Florida– Florida again which has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. From the article:

Chaos broke out at a zombie-themed street festival in downtown Fort Myers, Florida, after shooting left one man dead and five other people wounded.

Crowds of festivalgoers fled screaming through the streets after the shots rang out late Saturday at ZombiCon.

“It cleared out fast and cop cars and ambulances came,” said Savannah Holden, who watched the panic unfold from a hotel balcony.

One man died of a gunshot wound at the scene, police said, and five other people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Four of them were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Seriously. This is ludicrous. Notice that what most people did was to run away rather than try to shoot the shooter. Why? They were taken by surprise. They had no idea from where the shots came and their first reaction was to flee.

On another note, remember that gun extremists love to shoot at zombies on the gun range. They have zombies that are the faces and bodies of famous people like President Obama. Check out this site called Bleeding Zombies. There are the torsos of football players, terrorists, Nazis, etc. Why? What do shooters imagine while shooting at these targets? I think we know. This is our American gun culture gone totally out of whack.

Follow the money.

And then there was this shooting at the historical Tombstone, Arizona site:

Two people were shot in Tombstone, Arizona, during a gunfight reenactment when one of the actors allegedly used real bullets.

One of the actors, Tom Carter, was late to the performance and his weapon wasn’t checked, according to News 4 Tucson. During the shootout, he allegedly hit actor Ken Curtis with a real bullet.

Both were members of the Tombstone Vigilantes performance group.

“The Vigilantes immediately stopped the show and Tom was relieved of his weapon,” Bob Randall, the city’s marshall, said in a statement cited by the Tucson Sentinel. “During inspection of his weapon, it was discovered that there was one live round in the cylinder withfive expended casings indicating the gun had held six live rounds prior to the skit.” (…) Mayor Dusty Escapule told the Sentinel that the Vigilantes won’t be allowed to perform reenactments “until it can be determined all weapons are safely loaded with blank ammunition as required.”

Right. Guns are dangerous. When will that simple fact become part of our everyday language? Until it does, zombies- real or not and cowboys- real or not- will be shot every day.

And let’s get our history straight. The re-enactment of a shooting at the historical town of Tombstone is most likely a myth. Here’s the truth about guns and the “Wild West”.

This article in Politico after the shooting of Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona written by historian Katherine Benton-Cohen sheds light on what really happened in Tombstone:

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, during a press conference about the Tucson shootings, called Arizona “the Tombstone of the United States.”

Some journalists gave the word a lowercase “t,” but the sheriff was clearly referring to the infamous silver-mining town 70 miles from Tucson — site of the shootout at the OK Corral. (…)

The irony of Dupnik’s remark is that Tombstone lawmakers in the 1880s did more to combat gun violence than the Arizona government does today.

For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.

In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday maintained that they were acting as law officers—not citizen vigilantes—when they shot their opponents. That is to say, they were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone’s gun laws.

Today, in contrast, Arizonans can legally buy guns without licenses, and are able to carry concealed weapons without a permit. The state bans cities from passing their own, stricter laws. The legislature will consider a bill this session that would force schools to allow guns on campus — like Pima Community College, which the alleged shooter attended. (…) Arizonans, myself included, love to tout their vaunted independence and Western values. But when we perpetuate the idea that Arizona is some unchanging Wild West, we fall into the trap of a myth that only serves to embolden those who refuse to support commonsense restrictions on purchasing firearms.

Thanks to Arizona’s lax permit to carry laws, the Tucson shooter could carry his gun with little or no training. What shared values are involved in not requiring Brady background checks or some kind of knowledge of guns and how to shoot them before allowing people to carry guns around in public places? Carrying a gun in public places is an awesome and dangerous responsibility. This is the opposite of common sense. 

Just like the myth of an armed society being a polite society, so is the myth of gun wielding cowboys in the American western frontier. Yes, shootings happened. But there were also laws to address where and who could carry guns in towns. What are Western values?  Are they any different than the values held dear by the majority of Americans who know that keeping their children and communities safe from the devastation of gun violence is more important to an insane adherence to the second amendment.

Pope Francis on gun violence and Minnesota’s gun carnage

PM Pope imageThe Pope was right when he said in his remarks to Congress that: “We have to ask ourselves why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, we all know, is simply for money, money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”

Now some could say these remarks were meant to apply to the trafficking of small arms around the world that result in deadly assaults on masses of people by terrorists and insurrectionists. But we can apply these remarks to what is happening right here in our own country and, as I have written about recently, right in my own state of Minnesota.

When the aim of the gun industry is to sell as many weapons as possible to make a profit, it’s too easy to look the other way when the daily carnage is reported in our media. They must not believe it has anything to do with them or their businesses. And maybe it doesn’t. Selling guns is a business like other businesses. The difference is, what they are selling are deadly weapons designed to kill human beings. One has to wonder what a gun dealer is thinking when someone comes in and buys 2, 3, 4 handguns or an assault rifle at one time. Do they believe this person will be careful and responsible with that gun(s) and not kill themselves or their wife, partner, child or a relative or friend? How can we know?

What if we actually had a much more rigorous process of deciding who should be able to walk out of a gun store with a gun or two? What if we had a waiting period after a gun sale so someone who does mean harm to themselves or someone else can cool down for a while? What if we required a background check on all gun sales to make darned sure that everyone who buys a gun is a legal and responsible person? What if we didn’t allow the sale of multiple guns at a time? What if we cracked down on straw purchasing and gun trafficking by strengthening our laws? What if we had stronger laws about who can actually carry loaded weapons in public- and where they can carry them? What if families could report someone they love to law enforcement because they are pretty sure that person is about to do harm to someone? What if we required smart gun technology and/or trigger locks and safe storage so small children, teens and thieves couldn’t pull the trigger accidentally or on purpose on a gun they shouldn’t have?

What if………?

But, alas, we are living in a country where the headlines look like the ones I am going to highlight below.

It’s been another deadly few days in Minnesota. There was an officer involved shooting in St. Paul that ended with the death of a man who was seriously mentally ill and had just been released from a hospital:

Philip Quinn knew he needed help. After recently telling St. Paul hospital staff that he planned to kill himself, Quinn tried to get into a long-term treatment program to address his schizophrenia and other mental health difficulties.

But Thursday night in St. Paul’s West End, Quinn’s long struggle with mental illness ended when police, responding to a call of a suicidal man, shot and killed the 30-year-old, who was armed with a screwdriver and had failed to obey police commands. (…)

Quinn had been released from St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul last week after being treated for a mental health concern, Tareeq said. While there, he told medical staff that he had a plan to hurt himself, she said. After returning home, he started telling Tareeq that “things weren’t making sense” to him, she said. (…)

Philip Quinn’s troubles are well-documented.

He floated in and out of the criminal justice system for years — his record includes convictions for auto theft, drugs and possession of a firearm by an ineligible felon, among other offenses. But a 2013 jailhouse letter indicated that he sought help for his demons and hoped to regain a foothold in the civilian world.

“… I’m trying to get my life back on track before I am released,” he wrote, asking a hearing officer to vacate fines in 10 citations for low-level offenses.

Quinn was released from prison in March, with supervision for a 2012 gun conviction.

In that case, Quinn had been arrested during a police investigation into the sale of guns and methamphetamine. He was initially found mentally incompetent to stand trial, but the decision was later reversed. While in prison, his brother said, Quinn once to tried to cut himself.

This was a troubled man who had been arrested and charged with illegal possession of a gun and drugs. Clearly he should have had more help. Some in the gun rights community believe we should do more with our mental health system. They are right. But we shouldn’t just deal with mental health issues and ignore the gun violence issue. And dealing with our mental health system will require all hands on deck and funding. It’s not easy to do. In this case, the man was armed with a screw driver and not a gun. One has to wonder what kind of damage may have been done had he had a gun instead of a screw driver.

There was another domestic related shooting in Minneapolis hat ended in the death of 2 people. Police have not released information about the details or the names but the “father” living in the home surrendered to police.

And finally one is dead and one injured in a shooting in downtown Minneapolis last night:

One man was dead and another was injured late Friday in Minneapolis in a shooting, police said.

The shooting happened about 10:35 p.m., according to authorities, who were alerted by the city’s ShotSpotter system.

When officers arrived, they found the dead man in front of a residence as well as a number of people in the area, police said in a statement early Saturday.

Among that group, the officers found the wounded man, who had been shot in a foot, the statement said. An ambulance took the hurt man to North Memorial Medical Center.

Another 4 dead and one injured in the course of 2 days in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. This on top of the 9 dead and one injured in the previous week as I wrote about in the above linked previous post on this blog.

Now what? Will we just watch as the shootings continue? Or will we take action and think about the words of the Pope in his visit to our country? We are the only country in the world that allows such awful and devastating carnage to continue unabated without taking immediate action. The gun lobby has an outsized and ludicrous influence on our political system that makes no common sense. It is way past time to act in the name of our moral values, our duty to provide safety, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to the citizens of our communities. For the sake of our children and our future as a country, we just have to be better than this. Pope Francis was trying to tell us something and asked an important question.

He has spoken out before on shootings and gun manufacturers after the shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston:

The Pope openly criticized arms manufacturers, referring to Christians who manufacture or invest in weapons as hypocritical. “It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit of distrust, doesn’t it?” Pope Francis said at his speech in Turn, Italy, reports Reuters. (…) According to a report conducted by The Guardian, Italy averages 11.9 firearms per 100 people. The United States, on the other hand, has the world’s highest average at 88 guns per 100 people. The number of gun homicides is also relatively low in Italy, with 0.71 per 100,000 people compared to 2.97 per 100,000 people in the U.S. In the U.S., the pope’s negative comments about gun manufacturers might not have been received so warmly.

And finally, from the linked article above regarding the Pope and gun violence:

As Obama mentioned in his recent appearance on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, gun sales often spike following tragedies like the one that occurred in South Carolina on June 17.

Ironically, the president mentioned, gun manufacturers benefit from high-profile mass murders due to citizens’ fears that gun rights may be revoked.

In the U.S., despite repeated instances of mass gun violence, it’s unlikely gun control laws will significantly change any time soon. Considering the pope’s influence in nations around the world, his outspoken comments about the violent nature of guns may continue. Perhaps at least the 69.4 million Catholics in the U.S. — 22 percent of the overall population — will heed his words.

The Pope can have a powerful influence and let’s hope his visit here will lead our religious leaders to get more involved and take action. Will we listen to the Pope’s words and will we answer his questions?