The game’s not over yet

NY Daily news cover
From New York Daily News

The Parkland mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school happened in about the 3rd inning. In the midst of the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Sutherland church shooting, the Parkland school shooting happened taking the lives of 17 innocent kids and teachers. The Parkland student survivors were not having it. They decided to speak out and challenge everything about gun violence and the corporate gun lobby.

Nothing will ever be the same. The “game” played by the gun lobby has been exposed. The whole country is aware, activated and talking about gun violence in ways that have not happened before Feb. 14th of this year.

In today’s Duluth News Tribune a letter writer challenged the NRA’s false claims about guns and gun ownership. The writer suggested that the NRA is striking out now that the spotlight is on their myths and dangerous agenda. He’s right. The Parkland students and students all over the country have emboldened not only students but the public. People are speaking out like never before and finally saying what needs to be said and have wanted to say for a long time now.

This writer said this:

Twice I have seen the same man in a local gas station with a pistol on his belt. He did not look well. Misery and depression were obvious on his face. A steady diet of Fox News can do that to a person. Yet he alone among the customers possessed lethal force. It was up to him to act as judge, jury, and executioner if he felt threatened. Is this law and order or Wild West chaos?

Keep your hunting rifles and your shotguns. Own a handgun if you must. But owning guns should not make you judge, jury, and executioner. Nor does it necessarily make you free.

Gun ownership means freedom. Wrong. Many so called good guys with guns have killed too many of our kids and others because of that myth of freedom.

Another letter writer challenged the NRA directly when he suggested that the NRA has struck out because their dangerous rhetoric has led to deaths and injuries:

When all else fails, the NRA seems to want you to believe that outlawing military-type weapons for private use will “not solve the problem,” the problem being the killing of innocent people. Yep, hasn’t stopped since Cain killed Abel. This is the same as saying, “Even though there are speed laws, people will disobey; therefore, we did not solve the problem. So why have speed laws?”

It seems the NRA cannot understand that reducing the slaughter is a worthy cause. Strike three; you’re out, NRA.

#WecallBS

I spent time with the students at one of our local high schools on Friday for the National School Walkouts. I could not be prouder of those kids who are doing what adults have not done. One group of students walked out of their classes to our City Hall and had a moment of silence for the victims of the Columbine shooting on the anniversary of the shooting. And then they got to work. Students called legislators to ask them to support a bill that would once again allow the Health Department to do research about gun violence. ( a no brainer but resisted by the corporate gun lobby). None of the students had done this before. It was heartening to see them improve their skills and get excited and feel so empowered by their activism. It was clear that they were making a difference because one staffer said that they knew what the call was about because they had been getting many calls.

After it was over, the press interviewed the students who spoke with authority and new found communication skills not found in many adults.

Another walkout in my city attracted 300 students who walked out and marched on city streets. A third of the student population gathered to express their exasperation with the game. They understand that our adult leaders are letting them down by not acting to save lives and prevent at least some of the shootings. They get it. They are the new players in this game and fast becoming the stars.

This is how change happens.

In addition, students signed postcards of thank you to Dick’s Sporting Goods for their decision to stop selling assault style rifles and destroy their inventory of said guns. They will be delivered in person to our local Dick’s store.

One student cried as she remembered a relative who had been shot in the Red Lake mass school shooting telling me how that shooting had affected her family. The shooting happened 13 years ago but still the memories of loss remain.I told her about my sister’s death and suggested that she talk more about her story. The walkout allowed her to talk about it in a safe place. She left feeling like she could make a difference.

The student led walkouts and marches have energized a generation and moved the entire country in a direction adults had not thought possible. It’s a strike against the gun lobby who has tried but failed to stain the Parkland surviving students. Shame on them for playing this ugly game.

The game is changing. A new poll in Minnesota shows broad support for gun safety reform:

A majority of Minnesotans support stricter gun laws in the United States, including wide backing for a ban on military-style rifles and for raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.

An overwhelming 9 out of 10 Minnesota voters also favor mandatory criminal background checks on all gun sales, the poll shows, including those sold privately and at gun shows. And Minnesotans in every part of the state oppose the arming of schoolteachers, which some political leaders, including President Donald Trump, have suggested.

The polling shows political and regional divides regarding stronger gun laws but overall supports all previous polling on the issue in Minnesota and nation-wide.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of the devastation of gun violence, another mass shooting at a Nashville Waffle House left 4 dead. The hero of that incident stopped the gunman and saved lives– but he did it without a gun. A “good guy without a gun” was the quote from New York Daily News front page photo after the shooting. Not a good image for the corporate gun lobby.

And yes, it was another AR-15 that the shooter clearly should not have been able to access that accounted for a senseless and unmotivated shooting because………?:

Illinois authorities and the FBI interviewed him and revoked his firearms authorization. Four weapons were seized, including the AR-15 rifle used in the Waffle House shooting, Aaron said.

Officials returned the weapons to Reinking’s father, on the condition he would keep them out of his son’s hands. But the father gave the guns back to Reinking, Aaron said, adding that two of the four guns are missing.

In 2016, Reinking threatened to kill himself, and cops who arrived at a CVS parking lot said he told them singer Taylor Swift had been stalking him.

In what world would a father return the guns to his son who so clearly had problems? What was he thinking? Some people should not have guns, period. But everyone has a constitutional right to a gun.

Another strike against the gun lobby myths.

One more tragic and heartbreaking incident involving the totally avoidable and senseless shooting of a two year old by her own mother highlights again the risk of guns in homes. The gun lobby can’t explain these kinds of shootings without revealing the hypocrisy of their game of lies and deceptions. From the article:

Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS reported that the mother admitted to dropping the gun in a 911 call and said the girl was not breathing. She also told operators she thought the safety was off, but then later told authorities the safety was on, WEWS reported.

Police said the gun was legally registered and she owned a concealed carry permit.

There are no accidents with guns. They are lethal weapons designed to kill people.

“Good guys” with guns make lethal mistakes every day.

If there is any common sense, the public will win the game over deceptions and myths.

Two points of view, published in my local paper today, show us how the game is played. One, written by Daniel Hernandez, staffer to former Rep. Gabby Giffords and present at the Tucson shooting that left her forever changed, uses the facts to support the truth about gun violence in America:

Though gun laws vary from state to state, at least one trend is clear: States with weaker gun laws have more gun deaths. You would never know it, though, from the lies pushed by entrenched interests like the National Rifle Association, lies backed by the weight of the NRA’s vast political contributions.

For example, the NRA claims guns make people safer, that gun laws don’t work, and that the “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But none of that is actually true.

In reality, owning a gun puts individuals at a higher risk of gun violence; strong gun violence prevention laws are effective at saving lives; and armed citizens rarely successfully intervene to stop an active shooter.

We have to be willing to call out these myths, educate voters, and hold elected officials accountable when they repeat them.

The other, uses the myths and deceptions used in the game played by the corporate gun lobby. The writer, with whom I am unfamiliar, equated overall crime rates to gun violence, a deception often used by those opposed to any common sense measures to save lives. It ends with one of the other myths claiming that passing stronger gun laws will take away the rights of law abiding gun owners. This specious claim is easily debunked and has been:

Instead of penalizing law-abiding gun owners who use their firearms to save thousands of people every year, lawmakers should work to reduce crime by improving economic growth and providing additional educational opportunities. Those are proven methods for limiting crime.

The writer also used the lie that most homicides are gang related and chose to discount the gun deaths caused by suicide:

It’s also important to note that relative to other problems in our society of 320 million people, gun-related crime caused by Americans who legally own a firearm involved in the crime is virtually nonexistent. Of the 33,000 gun-related deaths that occur each year, two-thirds are suicides, and the majority of the remaining 11,000 deaths are gang-related and involve guns purchased illegally.

Let’s look at just the lie about gang related shootings from the linked article above:

The 80 percent of gang-related gun homicides figure purporting to support Loesch’s claim, then, is not only false, but off by nearly a factor of five. The direct opposite is necessarily true: more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related. While gang violence is still a serious problem that needs to be addressed, it is disingenuous to assert that the vast majority of our gun problem (even excluding suicides) is caused by gangs.

The article refers to NRA talking head Dana Loesch, responsible for many of the lies pushed by that organization. We are on to her and her lies and not playing her game.

The NRA and the corporate gun lobby are striking out with the general public. It is a fierce game, accompanied by ugly attacks on those who just want to save lives. But it’s a long game and the players are changing.

The students have come off of the bench and they are becoming the star players. They are the hope that the game is changing.

The discussion about how to prevent gun violence should be not a game. But the NRA and the corporate gun lobby have made it so and they have been winning for far too long as the bodies have piled up.

#Enough  #WeCallBS

 

The Fools

march photoHappy Easter all if you celebrate. And happy Passover to those who celebrated the Jewish holiday.

Today is April Fools’ Day as well as Easter. Interesting that it falls on the same day. As we returned from the warmth and sun of Florida, Minnesota had inches of snow and it’s bitterly cold. Fooled us.

And yesterday, who were the fools of the day? The Minnesota gun rights folks who had a rally at the State Capitol, armed to the teeth. Do they think this is going to change anyone’s minds after the way the last 6 weeks have gone? Fools all. From the article:

“Gun owners like you and me and the tens of thousands friends and family who couldn’t be here, we are getting trampled on. We’re getting assaulted by the people in this building,” Dorr said. “Gun owners are not respected. We’re under full blown attack in this building.”

Nonsense. You are not under attack. If you are law abiding gun owners, what do you have to fear but fear itself? Yes, we know you love your guns and you have your rights. No one is saying otherwise. But why flaunt your AR-15s after the Parkland shooting? Where is your common sense? The public doesn’t like to see your openly carried guns. Not on the week-end of Easter. Not on the week-end of Passover. Why do you think this is going to help your cause? You have nothing to fear with the suggested stronger gun laws now sitting in Congress and state houses all over the country. What are you so afraid of?

More from the above linked article:

“It is really about common sense gun safety legislation like universal background checks, which are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans,” Farnsworth said.

But Minnesota Gun Rights says it wants to make sure the voices of firearms owners are heard, and that the Republican-led Legislature knows it will face political repercussions if lawmakers advance any new gun control measures.

Nonsense.

Gun owners’ voices have been the only voices heard at the legislature. That is about to change.

It appears that you might be afraid of the students. And the fear has caused some really stupid and offensive things to happen. For one thing, harassing and attacking students is just not working. They are not having it and neither are we. We see through this fear of yours. You are afraid that a group of students is actually changing the conversation around your gun rights. All they are doing is trying to stop school shootings so they don’t have to be afraid to go to school every day to do what they are supposed to do as students. What about you? Are you so afraid to go to work, go to church, go to a park or a shopping mall that you need a gun to protect yourself? Go ahead if that’s what you want. But the chances of using that gun to protect yourself in those situations are slim to none.

Just check out what NRA Board member and generally crazy and offensive former music “artist” Ted Nugent had to say about the Parkland students:

“All you have to do now is not only feel sorry for the liars, but you have to go against them and pray to God that the lies can be crushed and the liars can be silenced so that real measures can be put into place to actually save children’s lives,” Nugent said.

Many conservatives have been critical of the Parkland survivors’ political beliefs, which isn’t too surprising given that they generally want gun control. But some, like Nugent, have gone further than that — attacking the kids for unrelated and often personal aspects of their lives.

On the radio show, Nugent claimed that the left had lied to the Parkland students, which he said meant they were committing “spiritual suicide.”

“To attack the good, law-abiding families of America when well-known, predictable murderers commit these horrors is deep in the category of soulless,” Nugent continued. “These poor children — I’m afraid to say and it hurts me to say this, but the evidence is irrefutable — they have no soul.”

No soul? Who is the fool who said that? And why would you say that about innocent students who have just gone through the trauma of a mass shooting at their school, in some cases, watching their classmates be slaughtered in cold blood?

What we should all be afraid of is your unrelenting lies and misperceptions that have caused our leaders to be afraid of you. Well, you have fooled them. You are only about 1.5% of gun owners and Americans. Why should we all be afraid of you?

We should be afraid of the 97% of Americans who want universal background checks but are not getting them.

We should be afraid of the domestic shootings and suicides that cause so much devastation in our country. We should be afraid of little kids finding their parents unlocked, loaded guns and killing themselves or someone else. We should be afraid of those loaded guns ostensibly for self defense “accidentally” discharging, sometimes harming another human being. We should be afraid of the fear of others instilled in police officers and others that cause people to shoot first and ask questions later.

This piece by Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, explains that fear of Black and Brown people that permeates our culture and is ramped up by Wayne LaPierre, gun rights extremists and even our very own President. We must address this uniquely racist violence by stopping the fear of “others” who are not like us:

But it’s not a local issue — it’s a national issue. And like every American who claims to be a gun violence prevention advocate, I have a responsibility to speak out against this uniquely American crisis. The unlawful shootings of Black and Brown people by law enforcement is gun violence. If we want to end gun violence, then we have to fight the systemic racism that can cause it, too.

I have great respect for law enforcement officers. They are afraid of being shot themselves almost every day while working to protect our communities. The recent shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man in Sacramento, was totally uncalled for and rooted in fear of young black men. Police departments must address the issue of shooting people of color more often than they shoot white people:

Our country’s culture of shooting at what scares us has a body count in Black and Brown lives. Research has shown that Black people are three times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white men. In addition, Black men are 13 times more likely than white men to be victims of gun homicides. Black children and teens are 14 times more likely to be the victims of gun homicides than white children and teens.

This is something to fear and something that cannot be hidden under the rug. The student movement after the Parkland shooting has raised the issue of shootings of young people of color as well as mass shootings and school shootings.

So who are the fools out there? Let’s be clear about this. No one needs to be fooled by the ramped up fear and paranoia of the gun rights extremists. I was so proud to have marched with the students in Duluth last Saturday. About 1000 turned out on a cold day to listen to students tell their stories and hear from a graduate student who was the mother of a shooting victim last December tell her story.

This is the American tragedy. We have been fooled by the NRA lapdogs. No more.

The students are challenging everything and because of it right wing FOX TV host Laura Ingraham is in trouble. Why did she foolishly go after the students? She didn’t have to do that. But she is afraid of their power. She is afraid they may be right and that our leaders will and are listening to them instead of her hate.

Why did Vermont gun owners have a rally like that in Minnesota and give away high capacity magazines at the rally to show their opposition to laws that are about to be signed by their Governor in a gun friendly state?

How foolish of them. The public understands what AR-15s and high capacity magazines do to our students and others. We understand. We will not be fooled.

Our students are or will become voters very soon. The gun lobby should be afraid of that:

Somehow it became acceptable over the past several days and weeks for politicians and others to mock mourning students-turned-activists who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

At what age is it OK to bully someone whose classmates were murdered at school? 14? 16? Adults on social media claim that because our young people aren’t as familiar with lawmaking or the Second Amendment or might not have known the difference between an automatic and a semiautomatic rifle two years ago, they can’t possibly know what they need to feel safe at school.

But those who organized and attended last weekend’s March For Our Lives are not to be trifled with. They have the power of social media and the power of their votes. It’s a bit short-sighted to think that because young people have historically not turned out to vote in large numbers that they won’t come out in droves come November.

Happy April Fools’ Day.

Don’t be fooled by the corporate gun lobby.

And remember the victims and their families on this Easter holiday that will not be happy for far too many. Their empty shoes are filled with memories and their families grieve on this day and all days.

shoes and roses

It’s the kids, stupid

March for Our Lives
from the Brady Campaign

What do our leaders not get about the movement that is taking place in our country right now? Why are they ignoring the voices of the kids who understand the sound of an AR-15 killing their friends? Why do they continue to mouth the same old tired NRA talking points when pretending that nothing can be done as did Senator Ted Cruz yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe?

 

Cruz was wrong but was smooth in his lies and deceptions brought to him and us by the NRA and corporate gun lobby. We aren’t having it. #WeCallBS. 

I have been working with teens and young adults in my city to support their plans for student Walk-outs on March 14th and a local March For Our Lives on March 24th. With each exchange with the students I have become more impressed with their energy and resolve to do something about the lack of action on laws and actions that would protect them from shootings in their schools.

Adults want to support these kids knowing that their voices are being heard and that they are the leaders for this cause. Many national gun violence prevention organizations and other organizations are lining up to co-sponsor the walk-outs and marches.

Kids are afraid. Why wouldn’t they be? They are the targets and sitting ducks for school shooters who have killed students all over our country in surprise attacks against their own classmates. They are also able to get their hands on guns far too easily.

In the past few weeks since the Parkland shooting there have been numerous incidents of threats to schools by young kids. In Minnesota, one particularly alarming incident involved a 13 year old Vadnais Heights boy who had threatened to shoot up a school:

The father of a Vadnais Heights boy who allegedly threatened to shoot up his school owned several illegal firearms and kept loaded guns out in the open, according to charges filed Monday.

Christopher Stowe, 41, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two felony counts of prohibited possession of machine guns and short-barreled shotguns and one count of gross misdemeanor negligent storage of firearms where a child can access them.

Authorities on Friday seized a cache of firearms, ammunition and at least two explosive devices from Stowe’s split-level home on Desoto Street. Some of the firearms were unsecured, and a ballistic vest was also recovered, authorities said. (…) “During the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement officers also observed that several of the firearms were a [sic] loaded and located out in the open and accessible to children in the home,” the charges said. “[The boy] was home alone when law enforcement officers first arrived to execute the search warrant.”

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. What was this family planning? And what were they thinking? Some gun owners have a total lack of common sense when it comes to storing their guns safely away from the hands of children. This family seemed clueless about the guns that were left loaded laying around their home. There are no excuses for this behavior around lethal weapons. Had this boy shot up his classmates at his school, I am quite sure they would have thought differently about their own lack of common sense.

The stakes are high. What is it about the risk of loaded guns in homes that some people don’t understand? I say it’s the gun culture gone wrong. It’s the Senator Ted Cruz nonsensical arguments that filter down to some gun owners who are vulnerable to the lies and paranoia spewed by the lobbyists and leaders of the NRA.

The AR-15s used in recent mass shootings take more lives at once which is why they are used. A Parkland physician wrote this article about the damage done to body tissue and organs when bullets come from assault type rifles. From the article:

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage? (…) Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

This is why the kids are scared. This is why the kids, parents and teachers know that trying to make ordinary hunting rifles seem the same as assault style rifles is “BS”. This is why the kids are angry.

The kids are not having it. There have been small walk-outs and protests all over the country. Just yesterday, hundreds (some say 2000) students from 2 high schools in St Paul, Minnesota walked to the state Capitol to express their anger and frustration:

“We’ve sat through many school shootings, and we’ve watched, and we’ve listened and we’ve waited for something to change, and nothing has changed,” said one of the organizers, Clare Fitzpatrick, a 18-year-old senior from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. (…)

“I just hope that we can change this. I just hope that everybody that they can make this work, and we can change the gun violence. And find out a way to keep guns away from schools.”

Fitzpatrick said students want the Minnesota Legislature to take action.

“We’ve received silence from our legislators that can’t pass a bill to help our students, and I think our first priority should be passing legislation that’s going to help save lives of students.”

Another article explains that other students joined the students who walked to the Capitol adding to the crowd to make it around 5000 students-and it’s not even the day of the March For Our Lives! From the article:

Arie Walker, a sophomore from St. Paul Academy and Summit School, said the mass shootings have instilled fear in her. Before she comes to school, she said, she thinks about what students could be thinking. She said this has made it hard for her to trust her peers.

“It builds tension,” Walker said. “We shouldn’t be scared that someone is going to come to school and shoot us.”

Tension is the least of what is happening.

And yet another source about this walk-out:

“As a group of students, we come here today with total diversity of opinion,” Doyle said in an interview. “As you look around, there are people here with signs with specific demands. As a group, we’re here to promote legislative action. I don’t think that high schoolers should have to write the bills for legislators. That’s why they’re in there. And that’s why we’re out here — to encourage them to write those bills.”

No, high schoolers shouldn’t have to write bills but right now I am thinking they could do a much better job of it than the legislators who have no courage or conviction.

Will we invest in our kids? More from the linked article:

As seen elsewhere, the school shooting in Florida seems to have triggered a rash of copycat threats. At least 21 threats have been made against Minnesota schools in the last three weeks, resulting in recent lockdowns and school closures at Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School, schools in the Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools and Orono Public Schools districts.

In response to Governor Dayton’s safe schools request, a Superintendent had this to say ( from thea article):

Speaking in support of Dayton’s proposal, Orono Public Schools Superintendent Karen Orcutt said it’s important that schools are given flexibility in how they invest in safety and security features because no two schools’ needs are exactly the same. But having recently endured a lockdown that lasted nearly six hours as police and the FBI investigated a “serious shooting threat” coming from inside one of the district’s buildings, she says it became clear that more needs to be done.

“All of these things we had going for us did not assure nor comfort the parents of these children, who spent the whole day under a threat and a lockdown,” she said.

Our kids are under threat almost every day. The adults are not listening or doing nearly enough.

Listen to the kids. They are leading the adults and we should listen to them. They are wiser than the adults and they are affected by gun violence in ways adults are not. There have been 18 incidents of guns firing at or in schools already this year alone. And it’s only March. Here’s one that just happened in Alabama.

We can expect to see more shootings in schools and everywhere else for that matter. We can also expect to see many thousands of students involved in Walk-outs scheduled for March 14th at 10:00 a.m. in each time zone. So far, as I write, students at 2300 schools will walk out of classes for 17 minutes and each will do something different during their protests.

On March 24th it is expected that there could be 500,000 students and others in Washington D.C. at a March For Our Lives. Marches will occur in cities all over the country and the world for that matter. People are angry. They want their voices to be heard and they want our leaders to act. They have had #Enough.

Why are they not acting? Have we been taken hostage by a hostile enemy? Have some of our leaders lost their mandate to protect their constituents from harm? Apparently.

At least in Florida, nicknamed the “gunshine state” the kids got to the legislators and they passed a bill that will help prevent some shootings. They could have gone further to save lives but this is a first step and a slippery slope to common sense. In spite of Marion Hammer, the legislators acted. Finally the voices of those who matter were heard. The NRA be damned.

The NRA has dug in its’ heels as it usually does. No capitulation for them. No compromising either. Just listen to their spokeswoman, Dana Loesch,  threaten the media and others on NRA TV:

“To the politicians who would rather watch America burn than lose one ounce of their own personal power, to the late night posts that think their opinion is the only opinions that matter.

“To the Joy-Ann Reids, the Morning Joes, the Mikas. To those who stain honest reporting with partisanship.

“To those who bring bias and propaganda to CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times… your time is running out. The clock starts now.”

She then turns over the sand timer before the screen fades to black and a message appears promoting Loesch’s new show on NRATV.

Perhaps the NRA’s time is running out.

No wonder so many people and businesses are distancing themselves from the organization.

The majority of people are supportive of reasonable gun laws understanding that the second amendment does not preclude passing laws to keep our children safe.

Health care providers who deal with kids and teens understand the risks and the public health aspect of gun violence. This Minnesota group of physicians has come forward to urge more research on gun violence. They understand the need to keep kids and teens safe from gun violence since they are the ones who deal with the injured and the dead. They also understand the devastation to bodies caused by bullets in ways that we cannot. A physician from Parkland, Florida, wrote this piece about the damage done to victims since she has seen it and we have not.

This is about our kids. If we can’t do the right thing for our kids, who are we? Kids are demanding action in ways that adults have not been able to. Our next generation is being snuffed out by senseless and avoidable shootings. Our kids are becoming shooters. The lost potential is staggering, not to mention the cost in not only dollars, but dealing with the aftermath of shootings and the PTSD that will be with some of these kids for years. Watching a friend or fellow student bleed out from a gunshot wound right in front of your eyes can’t be unseen.

Do this for our kids. It’s the only thing we can do. And do it right to make it matter.

Listen to the kids in one of the videos from the March For Our Lives site. #Whatif #Neveragain :

 

A Scarlet Letter

letter A in flamesThe novel, The Scarlet Letter, is a poignant reminder of how public shame can change everything. Even public shame isn’t working for the NRA lapdogs who lap at the feet of an organization that has kept the nation from doing anything about the school shootings, the mass shootings, the domestic shootings, the suicides, the “accidental” shootings, police shootings- you get the picture.

Students from Parkland, Florida, tried to see Florida Governor Scott when they visited Tallahassee but naturally, Scott did not have the courage to see the faces of anguished students demanding action. They started chanting, “shame, shame, shame.” Though the Governor was at the funeral of one of the slain students, one does have to wonder if he would have met with these students. Time will tell. What we know is that Governor Scott has taken a lot of money from the NRA. Many in Congress are in the same group who should wear the letter A on their chests.

A rating of A or A+ means something to the 1.5% of Americans who happen to be NRA members. That’s it folks. A tiny tiny sliver of Americans and gun owners care about the rating from the NRA. So why do our leaders even listen to them?

The times, they are a changing.

We’re not buying it any more.

Governor Scott and many others, are reconsidering their allegiance to the NRA. Are they finally getting it? Time will tell.

Scott has done the bidding of the NRA for years, listening to the strident voice of Marian Hammer, NRA lobbyist who has worked for decades to make Florida one of the most gun friendly states in the country.

It has been suggested that the politicians who receive an “A” rating from the NRA should wear it like a scarlet letter of shame:

I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment (do read the article in today’s Commoner Call on the actual history of the amendment. It ain’t what you think it is). I am a gun owner. I am even a long ago former member of the NRA. And I support those courageous and morally clear high school students demanding reform and sanity. Any democrat — office holder or member — who refuses to stand with those students against the attacks of the right wing extremists and shun the NRA and their dirty money should leave the party. They are beneath what the party should be about. Really, if the party ever wants to rise to power again they have to stop renting out its soul for dollars.

Shame on them all for persisting with their nonsensical, fact-free assersians and fear mongering after 17 students were hunted and massacred like animals in Parkland, Florida. Even their own mouthpiece, Dana Loesch, was no match for those students and parents  who didn’t get the message that we should be polite to these people who have been so responsible for the carnage in America. From the article:

Exactly one year ago, the National Rifle Association excitedly announced that it had tapped Dana Loesch, a conservative commentator and radio host, to serve as its spokeswoman. She had all the right chops for the job: razor-sharp public speaking skills, a devoted online following, and, most importantly, an extensive track record of fervently defending the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

Long respected in conservative circles for her brash political commentary and unapologetic gun rights advocacy, Loesch gained broader attention last year with a pair of inflammatory NRA ads that critics said could incite violence against the organization’s perceived opponents.

But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that Loesch’s role as the public face of the country’s preeminent gun rights organization was truly put to the test. (…)

But her advocacy often spirals into extremes. Her book compares gun control efforts to Nazi and Stalinist propaganda, and she inveighs against what she calls “the tragedy caucus,” a broad assortment of liberal “gun grabbers” who, in her eyes, exploit mass shootings “as a tactic to take away law-abiding citizens’ guns.”

She pretended to be empathetic on the CNN town hall meeting but the very next day, here is what the real Dana Loesch told ardent supporters at the CPAC meeting:

“I want to make this super obvious point,” Loesch said. “The government has proven that they cannot keep you safe. And yet, some people want all of us to disarm. You heard that town hall last night. They cheered the confiscation of firearms. And it was over 5,000 people.”

“I had to have a security detail to get out,” she said of the Sunrise, Fla. event. “I wouldn’t be able to exit that if I didn’t have a private security detail. There were people rushing the stage and screaming burn her. And I came there to talk solutions and I still am going to continue that conversation on solutions as the NRA has been doing since before I was alive.”

Really Dana Loesch? More hyperbole and blame. That is the game they play and they play it well. But we aren’t buying it.

E.J Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post says it just right:

How come only one side of the supposed culture war on guns is required to exude respect for the other? Because the culture-war argument is largely a gimmick pushed by the gun lobby as a way of demonizing its opponents. None of us who endorse stronger gun laws wants to disrupt anybody else’s way of life. And none of the measures we are proposing would do that. (…) What truly alarms the gun lobby is that many steps to curb the scourge of gun violence enjoy broad support, from those who own guns as well as those who don’t. A Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday, for example, found that 97 percent of Americans favor background checks for all gun buyers. While the survey showed the highest level of approval for background checks in some time, it is not an outlier. Background checks have long been embraced by 85 to 95 percent of us. Quinnipiac, by the way, also showed that 66 percent of voters support stricter gun laws, up from 47 percent in December 2015.

We aren’t buying the BS any more. Things are changing.

Yesterday I attended lobby day and a rally at the Minnesota state legislature as a member of Protect Minnesota and the Brady Campaign. It was one of the largest rallies held in recent years at the Capitol. The energy and commitment to change were palpable. Over 1000 people came to our rally and chanted and demanded action. It was reflective of the mood of the general public. Our legislators knew we there as we walked the halls in our orange shirts and visited our legislator’s offices. The day was inspiring for many and most especially for those who had never attended an event like this or darkened the doors of the Capitol.

Two days before our rally 300 Moms Demand Action members had a lobby day. Between us, the message was clear. We aren’t buying the NRA talking points and the BS any more.

Schools all over Minnesota have received threats on social media including my own grandson’s school. This is not OK. This is not normal. One school district was on lock down as they dealt with a threat. How frightening for the students and parents. Even though the threats were not credible, there were a lot of frightened parents and students. Why? Because we all know that the next school shooting is just around the corner at a school near you.

The idea that kids can buy AR-15s, knock off military style weapons is horrifying. It has been for decades but now the tide is turning. The public is fed up and understands the true nature of these weapons. They are not meant for hunting or self defense. Don’t believe the gun lobby or the gun extremists when they tell you that. #WeCallBS. They have gotten away with this for far too long. Their time is up.

The NRA is becoming less relevant as well it should be. Companies are cutting off business ties with this national organization of terror and fear mongering. Soon enough, an organization that represents a tiny tiny proportion of NRA members and gun owners, will fade to exist. We will be better off for it.

Follow the money. For way too long, the NRA’s deceptive claims and partnerships with the gun manufacturers has resulted in their ability to influence public policy about gun violence and kept the country from being able to save the lives of our children.

They can try to blame the “socialists” as did NRA’s Executive V.P at CPAC yesterday. Why listen to this lunatic? Who is he anyway? He represents power and influence which is fast fading away.

But we aren’t buying it.

And our very own President mimics the ludicrous arguments that, in his own estimation ( not based on anything) that 20-40% of teachers should now carry loaded guns in our schools. Where did that come from? And then he amazingly and stupidly pronounced at a meeting at the White House that all of those retired Marines who are teaching in our schools should be armed. Seriously? He is dead wrong. Who are all of these retired Marines? There may be some retired or discharged military members teaching in our schools but I doubt the numbers are what Trump pulled out of his empty hat.

Craziness is all around us.

And we’re not buying it.

Where is common sense? It’s in the halls of our legislatures. It’s in Parkland, Florida. It’s all over our media sources and it’s in American homes and schools. It’s all around us. It will be on March 14th when students will walk out of classes. It will be on March 24th when students will March their lives in DC and all over the country. It will be on April 20th. It will be everyday.

We want action NOW. Not yesterday or tomorrow- NOW.

We’ve had #Enough.

#WeCallBS

#NeverAgain

Lock them up

familyjewelsLock up those guns. It turns out that stolen guns account for a lot of crime guns. Here is a new report from The Trace about that very thing. This is a long and comprehensive article but just a few highlights about something we already know:

American gun owners, preoccupied with self-defense, are inadvertently arming the very criminals they fear.

Hundreds of thousands of firearms stolen from the homes and vehicles of legal owners are flowing each year into underground markets, and the numbers are rising. Those weapons often end up in the hands of people prohibited from possessing guns. Many are later used to injure and kill. (…)

Thefts from gun stores have commanded much of the media and legislative attention in recent years, spurred by stories about burglars ramming cars through storefronts and carting away duffel bags full of rifles and handguns. But the great majority of guns stolen each year in the United States are taken from everyday owners.

So for those legal gun owners who love to blame those guns on the streets for gun crimes and murders, check out your own homes and cars first. It’s also a reminder that when we allowed the gun lobby to loosen gun laws in many of our states, we made this happen. In many states, where shall issue concealed/carry laws are in place, guns can be kept in cars- locked up of course. But, duh, don’t you suppose those intent on stealing guns know this? Many stolen guns come from car break-ins.

In the image in this post, the homeowner has his own handgun out ready to shoot someone who may be breaking into his home. As it turns out, most home invasions happen when the homeowners are not at home making the idea that a gun is needed to protect from home invasions. It is rare that a gun is used in that way. Too often those guns end up shooting a loved one.

My state of Minnesota is one where gun carry permit holders can keep their guns in their cars.

Where is common sense?

But back to stolen guns.

I understand that hundreds of millions of Americans own guns and a small majority of Americans own a large majority of the guns. But for God’s sake- lock them up.

More guns+more mass shootings+more shootings in general= about 100 dead Americans a day.

In my hometown of Duluth, a robbery of a home not too far from where I live ended with 3 arrested and one person who escaped. A friend who lives close to the home where the robbery occurred told me that a shotgun was found lying in the back yard at the scene. She has 2 small children and guessed that there about 20 kids who live within blocks of the crime scene. The thought that a shotgun was found where, had police not found the stolen items, could have been found by a young child was concerning to her.

In addition to the stolen shotgun,  a handgun and a rifle were found in the yard the next day. They appear to have been stolen from the home. The one who got away left his jeans behind in a neighbor’s garage. There have no further articles about the robbery to confirm this information so this is hearsay but most likely true.

The moral of the story is that there are more guns on the streets being traced to crimes and shootings. A lot of them are coming from “law abiding” gun owners are not responsible enough to lock up their guns securely where they can’t be stolen.

Passing laws to require the reporting of lost and stolen guns could prevent some of the many stolen guns used in crimes and help law enforcement trace crime guns to their sources for the sake of accountability. This is not rocket science. It’s a no brainer and common sense. 

From the above-linked article:

Nine states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws to partially fill this gap and require gun dealers to implement some specific security measures, but such steps fall short of a comprehensive solution to the rising rate of firearm theft from gun stores.33 Congress should enact legislation that mandates certain security requirements for licensed gun dealers and gives ATF the authority to ensure compliance with these requirements. In July 2017, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced legislation that would require licensed gun dealers to store guns in a secure manner when their stores are closed and also would direct the U.S. attorney general to promulgate regulations requiring additional security measures.34 In addition to passing this legislation, Congress should remove the rider on ATF’s budget that prevents the agency from requiring gun dealers to conduct an annual inventory reconciliation, a commonsense business practice that would help ensure that dealers are keeping track of their dangerous inventory.35 Finally, Congress should provide ATF with the resources required to conduct regular compliance inspections of gun dealers to ensure that all dealers are complying with applicable laws and regulations and to help dealers identify potential security weaknesses before thefts occur.36   

And further, from the article:

The lack of mandatory reporting of stolen guns also enables gun trafficking and straw purchasing by eliminating accountability and allowing individuals whose guns end up used in connection with crime to simply say that the guns were stolen. To help ensure a more accurate assessment of the prevalence of gun theft in the United States, Congress and state legislatures should enact laws requiring all gun owners to promptly report stolen or lost guns to law enforcement. This provision was included in a number of bills introduced in the last Congress, including the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2016, which was introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).49 A June 2016 poll commissioned by The New York Times found that 88 percent of voters support this policy.50

If you have seen the 2002 film, “American Gun” you understand the path a stolen gun can take to become the weapon of a murder from being a legally owned gun. Too often, the consequences of guns stolen from gun dealers and individual gun owners are tragic.

One way to prevent this is for everyone to think about what they are doing with their guns. Until we all get that there is a risk to gun ownership as well as a right and a responsibility, we will continue to see people die due to gunshot injuries. There are suggestions in the article above about taking care that guns are not stolen.

We can a lot better to prevent guns from entering the black market and being trafficked on our streets. The fact that we aren’t is leading to senseless and avoidable gun deaths and injuries. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Guns in everyday life

at the RotundaUnfortunately “everyday shootings” and other incidents involving guns leave families devastated or lead us to wonder why so many American guns lead to so much gun crime and injuries and deaths.

Where to start? How about this one? A Colorado woman was charged with 35 felonies the other day because of stupidity and dangerousness with guns:

A woman was charged with selling stolen guns out of a parking lot and a man was charged with threatening his girlfriend’s family, and another man was charged with trespassing and acting out, according to reports. They all made their first court appearances on Monday with 35th District Court Judge Jack Barker presiding.

Meredith M. Atwell, 37, of Huttig, was arrested Friday and charged with selling nine stolen firearms, and potentially more, said Capt. Charlie Phillips of the Union County Sheriff’s Office. (…)

Phillips added 13 counts of possession of a firearm by a certain person and 13 counts of theft of a firearm, making a total of 35 felony counts.

Deputies say they have connected Atwell to stolen guns from Camden, Magnolia, El Dorado, and other parts of Union County.

“And all of this was to supply a drug habit,” Phillips said.

Deputies are looking for more guns and seeking out more arrests connected with the case.

You can’t make this stuff up. If we want to know where crime guns come from, here is just one incident about stolen guns and a whole bunch of other crimes all to “supply a drug habit.”  Guns and drugs are a bad mix. We should do something about both. Luckily for all this did not lead to someone losing a life. But given time, it would have.

And did you hear the one about the Minnesota man who shot at a letter carrier’s car and then somehow was found dead in his home of a gunshot wound? :

Authorities say the mail carrier was making deliveries late Monday morning when gunshots shattered the rear window of his vehicle in Polk County. A deputy who responded was confronted by Huderle armed with a rifle. Huderle fired at the deputy, striking the squad car.

Investigators say an officer with the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force returned fire. Huderle was later found dead outside his home with a high-powered rifle.

Why? I guess it’s “have gun, will shoot”. Be careful out there.

How about a Minnesota border patrol agent who used his own service gun and shot and killed himself in broad daylight in the parking lot of the border crossing area?:

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer apparently shot and killed himself in the parking area of the U.S. port of entry at the Pigeon River on Sunday afternoon. (…) “This is an extremely tough loss,” Eliasen said, describing the deceased as a veteran officer who had lived in the region for some time. “He was well-known and respected in the community and protective service agencies, and our hearts and prayers are with his family, colleagues and community during this difficult time.”

Veteran officer or not, legal gun owner or not, this sad and tragic case is why we have so many gun deaths in America. Over half of all gun deaths are suicide. We are not having an adult conversation about the risks of guns and how having a gun can result in a homicide, accidental shooting or suicide close to home. Suicide by gun is most often fatal- there is no chance to change your mind or have a second chance at life. Now another Minnesota family is devastated and to the outside world, nothing seemed to be wrong. If there were mental health or other problems that led to the fatal decision of the officer, it’s an American tragedy that the man had a gun convenient to him to end his life.

Gun violence restraining ( or protective) orders can save lives.  Sometimes families and friends know when someone is having mental illness problems or other problems that would make that person a danger to him or herself. They could report the person to law enforcement and guns can be temporarily removed.

But we are not passing laws that will allow that to happen. Why? The corporate gun lobby and their lapdogs in Congress and legislators all over America don’t represent the majority of people who understand that common sense laws could save lives.

Too sad and disturbing really.

The American political world is so topsy turvy right now with every day and almost every hour of every day bringing us more scary and disturbing revelations about our own President that these incidents almost feel trivial. They are not to those involved.

Take, for example, the recent London terror attack also involving  gunfire. The only one to die by gunfire was the perpetrator who was shot by an officer. London officers usually do not carry guns but some near the Parliament buildings do actually carry guns now. This deliberate decision was decided out of common sense and the idea that public safety does not depend on guns. From the above article:

And yet more than 90 percent of the capital’s police officers carry out their daily duties without a gun. Most rely on other tools to keep their city safe: canisters of mace, handcuffs, batons and occasionally stun-guns. (…)

Giving everyday police officers guns sends the wrong message to communities, so this thinking goes, and can actually cause more problems than it solves.

Although there are higher numbers of armed police guarding Parliament, the attacker who rushed the gates Wednesday was shot dead by a relatively rare member of the country’s security forces — one who had been trained to use a firearm.

Some of these gun-wielding officers patrol the city in pairs, others are members of crack response teams — units dressed in body-armor, helmets and carrying long rifles — who are called to the scene of violent incidents like these.

In most instances, they don’t use their weapons.

So different from our own armed society and along with it, heavily armed law enforcement officers. More from the article:

It’s a world away from the United States, where cops killed 1,092 people in 2016, according to figures compiled by The Guardian.

Of course it’s easier for police to remain unarmed if civilians do the same. Out of every 100 people in Britain, fewer than four of them owns a firearm, according to GunPolicy.org, a project run by Australia’s University of Sydney. In the U.S. there is more than one gun per person.

Ah. There’s the rub. Fewer gun owning citizens means less need for officers to carry guns and fewer gun deaths. Such common sense is needed in America right now. Instead, we have the opposite. Read below.

Predictably the NRA’s first response to the London attack is…. you guessed it….more guns for Americans. If only those victims would have sensed a car coming towards them to mow them down, they could have shot at the driver. Or if only someone had stopped to shoot at the victim as he went after the officer with a knife instead of running away from the danger as they were told to do. Sadly an officer is dead but another officer trained with a gun shot the alleged terrorist.

We ought to be thinking about how we can stop terror attacks without having guns enter every conversation. The real conversation about guns should be about preventing our own homegrown terror due to the number of mass shootings, domestic shootings, shootings of young men of color,  easy access to guns by children and teens, and gun suicides. But we have the NRA and the corporate gun lobby putting their fear and paranoia front and center to stop the conversation we should be having.

And speaking of the NRA, this great article from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence points out the connection between health care and guns:

While mental illness is not a significant risk factor for violence against others, mental illness does increase the risk of suicide. About 90 percent of those who die from suicide experienced symptoms of mental illness prior to their death, and these individuals are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated. Speaker Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is expected to come up for a vote today, fails those at risk of suicide by stripping mental health care from individuals who depend on it.

In drafting the AHCA, House Republicans had the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to improved mental health care. They had the opportunity to prioritize individuals living with behavioral health problems. They had the opportunity to save lives.

But, predictably, they didn’t take it.

The Republican health care did not pass for lack of votes in their own caucus and lack of leadership. In addition, the bill was a horribly written bill designed to rig the system in favor of the wealthy and take health care away from the poor, middle class and sick people. Such cynicism is unacceptable and proved to be fatal to the passage of the bill, thank goodness. Mental illness health care has improved under the ACA and would have suffered under the now dead Republican health care act.

You may remember that NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre tried to excuse and deny the Sandy Hook shooting of 20 first graders by passing it off to mental illness ( and presumably not much to do with access to guns):

At moments, the NRA and supporters almost sounded like liberal gun-control advocates. “We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed,” Mr LaPierre told NBC television on December 23rd last year, days after the Newtown murders. The NRA backs the FBI-run instant background checks system used by gun dealers when selling firearms, Mr LaPierre noted. It supports putting all those adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system, and deplores the fact that many states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. (…)

Mr LaPierre’s line is both clear and not. He supports improving the quality of the federal database used for background checks, but opposes using that same database more often, calling any talk of universal background checks a ruse paving the way for the creation of the national gun register that the government craves, so it can confiscate America’s guns.

He talks of improving mental-health treatment, but then uses the harshest possible language to describe the mentally ill, telling NBC:

We have no national database of these lunatics… We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that’s got these monsters walking the streets.

So what is really going on? Interviewing the Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, he accused the NRA of a “bait-and-switch”, in which the gun lobby is trying to appear constructive without allowing any gun rules to change.

Let’s just enforce the laws already on the books (unless we don’t like them) and not try to solve the problem of easy access to guns because…. rights.

We need to fix our background check system, our mental health system, our healthcare system,  our lack of attention to stolen guns and straw purchasing along with gun trafficking and many other policies that can make us safer. But do we?

No.

As an aside, there are fixes to Obamacare that can keep the good things about the law, including paying for mental health care, but change the things that have not worked. But for the far right, it is all or nothing and no adult conversations to try to find middle ground.

The sad reality in America is that there are places where people can meet in the middle because the public actually is in the middle on health care, on guns, on access to women’s health care, the environment and so many other crucial issues. As long as we have fealty to ideological extreme positions on these issues, we will be worse off.

We just have to be better than this.

Back to public health and gun violence, Protect Minnesota and volunteers from the Brady Campaign chapters , the public health community and other organizations had a great lobby day this past week with health care providers and others visiting their legislators The volunteers delivered packets containing the lists of reasons gun carry permits have been denied or revoked by county. Each legislator got a packet containing information about the county they represent. Research and facts matter. This is information the gun lobby does not want known. But it is now.

About 200 people gathered in the Capitol rotunda for a rousing rally and to hear fantastic speakers from the public health community as well as victims of gun violence. If only the public could hear the many amazing speeches about the effects of gun violence and the “cure” for gun violence.

One of the speakers, Athena Adkins, spoke about the tragic and avoidable death of a young law clerk last spring n the office where her husband works .  She spoke about the horror when learning that the bullets were intended for her husband:

According to the criminal complaint, Petersen had hired attorney Dan Adkins from the law firm but was “displeased with the way his case was being handled.” He expressed his concerns to Adkins via phone calls and text messages before and on Thursday.

“On the afternoon of April 7, Petersen fired [Adkins] by text message and demanded his money back,” the complaint said. “Petersen expressed a belief that [Adkins] was ignoring his messages.”

Adkins was in court at the time and couldn’t respond to Petersen, according to the complaint.

When Petersen arrived at the law firm, located above St. Paul’s historic W.A. Frost & Company restaurant in the 300 block of Selby Avenue, he apparently found only Passauer. Adkins and colleague James Gempeler arrived at the firm just after the shooting and found Passauer fatally wounded, sitting in his desk chair. He was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. (…) “It’s unbelievable,” he said Friday of what transpired in the law office. “Gun violence is totally out of control. It’s amazing how it impacts the victim, the victim’s family, the whole neighborhood.”

Yes. It is amazing isn’t it? The impact of gun violence is like a whirlpool sucking everyone into it. The bullets were intended for Adkins but the law clerk was there and in the way of the shooter’s anger and desire for retribution for a perceived wrong. A gun made this all so quick and easy.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser.:

Petersen has a lengthy and violent criminal past that includes convictions for drive-by shooting, second-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, first-degree damage to property, aiding and abetting in the sale of narcotics, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and disorderly conduct, court records show.

Sigh.

These are the people who could be able to carry loaded guns in public if some in the Minnesota legislature have their way. We won’t know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys” with guns in a permitless system. It’s easy for the “bad guys” to access guns with no background checks and carry them around to shoot someone with whom they have a beef. Way too easy.

Another speaker, a Youth Program Developer and Mental Health worker at HCMC  (Hennepin County Medical Center) spoke about the proliferation of guns in the neighborhoods of color. He spoke about how easy it is for the youth to get cheap guns on the streets and the need to prevent that. Guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases  and get onto the streets from traffickers who obtained their guns with no background checks ( or even with them), straw purchasing or stealing them.

Stand Your Ground laws disproportionately affect people of color. None of us would be safer if that bill became law but some members of the House Public Safety Committee prefer to only think about their own self defense in public where the need for a gun is rare indeed. Most shootings happen in homes or in places where no one has a chance to react given the surprise effect of gun violence. In spite of what the gun lobby loves to say, and did say in the public hearing regarding this bill, guns bought for self defense more often get used to harm someone known to or loved by the shooter. From this report( linked)  by the Violence Policy Center:

The center also dives into the thorny thicket of how often the presence of a gun stops a crime — either violent or against property, such as a burglary — from happening. The gun lobby trots out an annual figure of 2.5 million such instances. But an analysis of five years’ worth of stats collected by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey puts the number much, much lower — about 67,740 times a year. (…) So what conclusions can we draw from this? The notion that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun is a romanticized vision of the nature of violent crime.

So far the two dangerous and unpopular bills are not included in an Omnibus Public Safety bill but we know that the gun lobby minions are pressing for their inclusion. Most members of the legislature do not want to have to vote on these measures. They understand that they are NRA and corporate gun lobby bills pushed onto the public but not sought by the public. Never mind. The gun lobby wants its’ way. They want more loaded guns in public carried by people who shouldn’t have them and they want people to be able to shoot first and ask questions later. It defies common sense and the facts.

#Factsmatter. People are dying every day in American and on average, one a day in Minnesota. This is simply not OK. More and more people are discovering the truth about the extreme agenda of far right politicians and pushing back.

Minnesota not so nice

people_1_night_visitI was unable to attend the hearings on permitless carry and Stand Your Ground at the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. I watched much of the testimony streaming on the House website. It was the usual back and forth by gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates. Some things never change.

But things will change if several bills heard in the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee are given a yes vote. We may not know how individual members would vote on each bill since they were laid over to be likely included in a larger omnibus public safety bill. That is the way to hide controversial bills which may not pass through the entire body to pass anyway. And it’s a way to force a vote on unpopular policies. They can’t vote against something that also includes good stuff. This is politics and it’s the way it works. But we don’t have to accept it.

You know that real people have lost loved ones when firearms are used to kill them in senseless acts of violence. That is why we ( since I also have lost a sister in a domestic shooting) don’t want to make it easier for other families to lose loved ones like in the testimony of Rev. Rolf Olson, who I know personally. Here is his testimony ( from the above link) :

The new law would allow gun owners to legally carry weapons in public without a permit. It generated emotional testimony, including from Richfield Lutheran Church pastor Rev. Rolf Olson, whose daughter was murdered answering a Craigslist ad.

“People who couldn’t pass a criminal background check and have never learned how to handle a gun safely would be able to carry one in public,” Olson said. “How would that protect public safety?”

He brought a photo of his beautiful daughter and displayed it during his testimony. Did the legislators look at Katherine Olson’s photo? Did they care?

No answers, of course, from those who want the bill to pass. None of them have lost a loved one and several of them were packing heat at the hearing. Remember, there was not a public clamor for people who are not trained or go through a background check to carry loaded guns in public. It will simply NOT protect public safety. Rev. Olson knows about that.

If politicians are so afraid to take votes on individual bills or not allow amendments on bills, it just has to mean that they understand the bills are really not popular and their other members will not vote on them when they stand alone.

If you want to see the testimony, view it below.

The first bill heard yesterday was H.F. 0188 , Permitless Carry.  Much of the testimony centered on the fact that it is a natural constitutional right to carry a gun so really no restrictions should be placed on those who get to carry a loaded, lethal weapon around with them in public. The “arguments” from my side of the issue were made for us by one of pro gun rights testifiers. He said that we would say the Heller Supreme Court decision had some language in it that puts some limits on the right to keep and bear arms. He would be right. But he asked the legislators to ignore this and remember that when we point out the some of the words of the late Justice Scalia, writing for the majority should be ignored. Just pay attention to the totality of what the bill really means. Here, in Scalia’s own words, is why the pro gun advocates want to ignore his words:

The late justice also more generally offered the belief that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” For instance, Scalia said concealment laws were permitted at the time of the Constitution’s ratification and should be permitted today.

The issue that Scalia left future courts to grapple with is what constitutes a protected weapon. He wrote that the Constitution protects weapons that could be carried and were in common use. What he didn’t say in the opinion—and what the court has deferred ruling on—is whether an AR-15 fits the bill for a common weapon. On one hand, it’s certainly not rare. There are more than a million in circulation. On the other hand, it’s not as ubiquitous as ordinary rifles and handguns. At some point, the John Roberts court will wrestle with the questions Scalia left unanswered, or the justices will leave it to the political process.

So far the gun rights advocates and their lapdog politicians in the Minnesota legislature have not suggested the open carrying of AR-15s but I’m sure they would like to- and most likely without a permit or training either. That’s the way it goes in the world of the “guys with the guns make the rules”. (Wayne LaPierre):

Common sense does allow for people being able to read the entire opinion, including the words of the conservative Justice Scalia. Just because you don’t like the words doesn’t mean he didn’t write them. And it doesn’t mean that having regulations and restrictions on some guns, who may carry them and where they may carry is unconstitutional.

I thought that one of the best questions was asked by Representative Hillstrom who wondered how officers would know if someone who was packing heat when asked or when pulled over in a car was legally able to carry if there was no permit to show. One of the bill’s authors, Professor Joe Olson, looked puzzled and really couldn’t answer the question. Isn’t that the main point? How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys with guns”? (Wayne LaPierre again) Carrying without permits means no mandatory training, no background check in order to get the permit, and allowing 18 year olds to now carry guns. What could possibly go wrong?

Maybe this?:

A University of Central Florida fraternity was suspended after one of its members was accused of holding a gun barrel to a student’s head as part of a pledge activity, according to documents released by the school.

The argument on the pro gun side was the usual- there has been no blood running in the streets since conceal and carry was passed in Minnesota in 2003 and 2005 ( repassed after Church lawsuit)  except when there is. About one Minnesotan a day dies from a gunshot injury and this has been a pretty deadly year so far. Domestic homicides, gang and drug related shootings, and accidental discharges are among the many shootings that occur in our state, less regularly than in some states, but regular enough to be of concern. And suicide by gun accounts for 80% of the gun deaths, but never mind them. Conceal and carry holders can and do commit suicide by gun. Besides, why isn’t one senseless death one too many?

Minnesota gun permit holders have killed themselves or others as it turns out and also been denied for some pretty interesting and good reasons. That information was given to each legislator on the committee. And they might appeal their denial and win:

Since 2003, at least 299 people deemed too dangerous or otherwise unfit for a gun-carry permit were able to obtain them on appeal to the sheriff or a judge, a Star Tribune analysis shows.

In a system that prosecutors say is heavily weighted in favor of permit seekers, it’s nearly impossible to find out why the denials are overturned. State law protects the privacy of gun owners, prohibiting law enforcement from releasing any data that could identify them — even if they have criminal records.

In Hennepin County, one applicant had a felony conviction for manufacturing and dealing crack cocaine. Another in Ramsey County was suspected of shooting at a law enforcement officer. An Olmsted County applicant was a confirmed gang member. Each got a permit on appeal.

Yup. And those people could be carrying without a permit if the bill passes.

But never mind. Let’s proceed to make it easier for those folks to have and carry guns around in public.

Sigh.

I suppose we could have brought former Representative Gabby Giffords in to testify given that she was shot by a young man who shouldn’t have had a gun but was allowed to carry one anyway in Arizona, a permitless carry state. His mental illness wasn’t enough to adjudicate him and make him a prohibited buyer. So he was legally carrying a gun but with no apparent training and no permit to carry it because…. rights.

But why deal with actual cases? They don’t seem to matter when the corporate gun lobby comes to town to testify, as they did in Minnesota.

The argument that one has to get a Brady background check when buying a gun anyway so if you carry said gun, you should be good to go, was trotted out. Really? Where is common sense?

A new study shows that about 22% of gun sales go without a Brady background check. That is down from the 40% we have been using, lacking more current research. But finally,  we have this figure from a Harvard study:

For years, politicians and researchers have estimated that as many as 40% of gun transfers are conducted without a background check – a statistic based on an extrapolation from a 1994 survey. Gun rights activists had decried that estimate as outdated and inaccurate.

The new survey, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the current proportion of gun sales conducted without a background check is about half of the figure cited by prominent Democratic gun control advocates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It also found that gun owners in states that require background checks on all private gun sales were much less likely to report acquiring a gun without a background check than those in states with no universal background check law – a potential indication that efforts to boost screenings at the local level are succeeding, even in the absence of federal legislation. (…)

The new survey also found that in states that had passed universal screening laws by 1 July 2013, just 26% of gun owners said they had obtained a gun through a private sale without a background check, compared to 57% of purchasers who live in states without such requirements.

Overall, researchers found that half of guns transferred privately in all states within the past two years were obtained without a background check.

So a gun purchased without a background check through a private sale, a straw purchase, stolen or trafficked in some way can now be carried in public by its’ owner. Yes. It’s true. There is no way to make sure the person carrying can pass a background check if they don’t have to have one in order to get a permit.

Sigh.

And then, for the hearing on HF 0238, the ubiquitous Stand Your Ground bill, the gun lobby trotted out the discredited John Lott who runs around testifying in favor of the idea that more guns make us safer. And surely, people have the right not to retreat in a potentially dangerous situation but the bill would allow a situation perceived to be dangerous to shoot without retreating as has been in law. Shoot first and then find out if the person ( who may now be dead) was armed or meant bodily harm.

A testifier on my side, Rachael Joseph, testified about the shooting of her aunt Shelly, killed in 2003 in the Hennepin County Courthouse. I have included her story here in my blog before. But then she went on to talk about the danger to people of color and immigrants who, because they are considered the “other” by far too many people, are at risk when Stand Your Ground laws are enacted. We already know about Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Rachael wanted to talk about the recent shooting of 5 black men at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter gathering in 2015. Four white men drove to the Twin Cities with the idea in mind of causing trouble. They shot into the crowd, injuring 5 and then tried to claim that they themselves were in danger from unarmed people in the crowd.

This seemed to bother one of the legislators who claimed that people in the crowd instigated the shooting and therefore this case should apparently not be used. It must have been a surprise to him when a jury didn’t believe that and recently convicted one of the men involved in the shooting. 

But never mind actual cases.

One of the more interesting and disturbing testimonies came from a young man who claimed to be a hunter and gun owner. He suggested that it was time to shoot the bad people and become a state of lynching again. It was so offensive that the crowd murmured and booed and one legislator interrupted to say he should stop his offensive remarks. Check it out:

One speaker, identifying himself as Ross Koon of West St. Paul, caused perhaps the greatest disturbance of the hearing when he went on a tirade in ostensible support of the “stand your ground” bill.

After talking about the need of frontiersmen to bear arms against “marauding savages” or defend against “a lawless uprising of our valuable workforce,” he added, “It was not lightly that we took to weapons and rope to ensure the purity of our nation.”

The tirade caused those in the audience to wonder aloud whether Koon was a plant or trying to be ironic, with others saying it was hard to tell these days.

Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, and Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, took the man seriously.

“Mr. Chair … this testimony is offensive,” Considine cut in over the speaker.

“Maybe to you but not to a lot of people in the room. We never shut down any of the opposition, we’re certainly not going to shut down … ” Cornish said.

“Marauding savages and talking about lynching black people?” Considine asked.

The speaker then took his tirade up a notch, saying “As we face hordes of illegals and so-called refugees, it is of the utmost importance that we be granted broad liberties to kill with impunity. … It’s time to kill the scary people. It’s time to make Minnesota lynch again.”

“All right … yeah that was rather offensive, but last time we had these hearings if we shut anybody down on either side we’d get booed and hissed, so I thought I’d just let him rave on,” Cornish said.

It turns out that he was using satire in his testimony and was not affiliated with either of the sides who signed up speakers for their remarks. His satire did make a point, however, even if we don’t like it. But the committee chair didn’t think his remarks were offensive to a lot of people in the room?

Sigh.

Should these bills pass the legislature and get to the Governor’s desk, we can hope for the sake of public safety that he won’t buy the arguments. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the NRA and corporate gun lobby are making the rounds to states all over our country pushing for these ridiculous laws.

We will have to think harder about what happens if our kids ring the wrong doorbell or run through someone’s yard after dark or try to sell candy to a neighbor. We will have to think harder about whether someone we see carrying a loaded holstered gun in public was actually trained to carry that gun, knows anything about guns or can pass a background check.

82% of Minnesotans support background checks on all gun sales. I can safely say that the public does not want these bills.

We will not be safer.