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?

Guns as available as candy

Chocolate, vector

In America guns are almost as readily available as candy. That is not just me talking. That is a quote from this article about yet another “accidental” shooting of a child by a child- this time in my state of Minnesota. Let’s take a look at the quote from this article:

Wilson said it is far too easy for children to get their hands on a gun.

“These kids can get a gun just like they can go and get a Snickers bar,” said Wilson, who has found himself responding to shootings in Minneapolis to help loved ones cope. “It’s not a surprise to the people who know.”

People know. It’s not a surprise. Kids can get guns like they can get candy. Kids can find loaded guns in parks. And then kids “play” with guns and sometimes when adults are in the same house. Adults are responsible for this. All guns start out as legal purchases. They don’t fall from the sky and end up in parks or in the hands of felons or others who should not have them.

And now a brother has killed his older brother. A family is devastated. A community is devastated. These are avoidable and senseless deaths.

If people know, why aren’t we doing something about this? Where do we think a gun laying around in a park comes from? Shouldn’t kids be playing in parks without fear of them coming across a gun? Obviously the gun was not a legally owned gun. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say obviously because “law abiding” gun owners have been known to leave guns laying around in bathrooms, or leaving them behind in store dressing rooms or in purses or backpacks, etc. I have written about these real life incidents many times before. But in this case, I suspect the gun was “lost” by someone else who shouldn’t have had it.

We have, by most estimates, about 300 million guns in one place or another in America. Many are legally owned. Many are not. This is about one gun per person. Stunning. With that many guns around it is inevitable that the incident I linked to above happened. It will happen again and again and it has happened before. On average, 9 kids a day are shot in America. About 7 die. Why isn’t this a national emergency?

Where is common sense?

We have such a cavalier attitude about guns in our country that finding a gun in a park is no big deal apparently. And when adults just assume that their kids know better than to play with a gun, I would say we have a serious unaddressed problem. And thanks to the corporate gun lobby,this problem is leading to devastating and avoidable gun injuries and deaths all over our country.

Just because it hasn’t happened in your community doesn’t mean it won’t. Until we get serious about having the national conversation that we deserve to have our children will be at risk. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. They are not toys. They should not be as available as candy bars. They should be difficult to access by those who shouldn’t have access- period.

The irony of this attitude towards guns appears in this great video by Comedian Amy Schumer in which a woman is asking why she can’t access birth control. Watch to the end for the best punch line. You can watch it here and decide for yourself:

http://likescake.tumblr.com/post/117172623563

Point made. Guns are easily available to children- birth control for women? Not so much.

And before I go, I must refer my readers to this awful incident, yet another of a “law abiding” Florida parent mishandling a gun resulting in the death of his own child.From the article:

Hernandez was only confirmed as the shooter through Bay County Court documents. According to court records, Hernandez was in another room of the apartment “practicing form in front of the mirror and the gun … accidentally went off and went through the mirror and the wall and fatally injured the daughter,” his attorney reported.

Practicing his form? For what? Does this guy need to look good while carrying that gun or shooting it? In what world is he living? Oh, right- the world of those who think carrying a gun makes them look macho and where nothing bad will ever happen with their own gun. Or something. At any rate, that need to practice how you would look while wearing your gun can lead to tragic consequences. A child is dead.

Sigh.

Where is common sense?