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.

 

 

 

 

The yin and yang of gun policy

yinJust like the current political situation has left many of us, and I would suggest, the entire country reeling in confusion and chaos, so, too, gun policy has done the same. The gun  lobby is set to overturn just about anything that makes common sense when it comes to gun policy. A bill which passed through both houses of Congress and set to be signed by our current President, undid something our last President did to try to stem the tide of gun violence. President Obama’s executive order was meant to keep people with very serious mental health disabilities from being able to legally purchase guns by placing their names on the list of prohibited purchasers in the National Instant Check System. It was not meant as an evil attempt to confiscate guns or take away anyone’s rights to own guns who should be responsible with guns.

But, as these things go, it got caught up in the politics of gun policy. I found this article by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to be a very good summary of the provision and where we are now. Let me quote from what he wrote for Huffington Post:

I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence. (…)  I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence.

Certainly the efforts of the gun lobby to overturn a provision meant to be life saving are fraught with the past history and statements of those in the lobby who have claimed that we ought to just center our efforts to prevent gun violence on mental illness:

Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, envisioned people with “an eating disorder” being barred from buying a gun. To the contrary, the rule was focused narrowly on disabled individuals who require a trustee for personal management. They would have had the right to appeal. Senator Grassley himself noted last year the flaws in the background check database when he proposed greater cooperation among federal agencies with relevant information.

“The Republicans are so hypocritical on this issue,” said Senator Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. He has fought for both stronger gun controls and better mental health care in the aftermath of the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. A mentally troubled individual used a legally purchased assault weapon and shot to death 20 children and six school workers. The disability rule was a response to that tragedy after Congress refused to tighten gun safety laws.

Ah- the hypocrisy.

Sigh.

And so, this provision, though not perfect, was centered on the concerns that some people are, indeed, potentially dangerous to themselves or others. There are ways to deal with this conundrum and public health and safety concern without throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Horwitz suggests Gun Violence Restraining Orders or, in Minnesota, a proposed Gun Violence Protection Order bill, to deal with concerns that family members have about a loved one who could become dangerous if they have access to a firearm.

The article ends like this:

Prohibitions on gun ownership are critically important. The United States’ gun laws include far too many loopholes that allow dangerous people to do harm. But the laws we support should be based on research and focused on dangerous behavior – not genetics, not diagnoses. If we want our movement to succeed, a data-driven strategy is the only way forward.

Yes. We have work to do. It does not have be either/or. It should be a rational discussion about how we can save lives and protect families and communities from insidious gun violence that takes the lives of 33,000 of us- most due to suicide.

All of this is the opening salvo in what will surely be attempts by the corporate gun lobby to weaken gun laws in the states and through federal legislation. We will not be safer as a result.

And that is why we need to recognize the risk of guns in the home and guns in the hands of people who could become dangerous to themselves or others. So the other side of this week’s gun policy was a Florida court decision that overturned a previous Florida court decision that allowed the bill, nicknamed “Docs vs. Glocks”, to stop physicians and healthcare providers from talking to patients about the risks of guns to their families. Just as physicians, physician assistants, nurses ask questions about whether we feel safe in our homes when going for our annual physicals, they should be able to ask about guns. They ask about smoking, alcohol use, bike helmets, stored poisons, seat belts, child car seats, and many other things that could cause harm to our health or well being.

From the above-linked article:

Stop for a moment and consider that the Second Amendment injury here lies not in the possibility that a physician can do anything to take away anyone’s gun, but in the outside chance that she will use her knowledge of actual medical evidence to suggest that guns can kill people and her patient might listen to her. This is literally an argument for a constitutional right not to learn stuff from people who know stuff because you might then feel bad about the stuff you own.

It is a fact that firearms injuries take the lives of almost as many, if not more of us than auto accidents. Domestic shootings take the lives of far too many (mostly) women. Gun suicides are a very real risk to families.

So the recent ruling was a victory for common sense and first amendment rights of those who provide healthcare to practice their profession as they were taught and as they are charged to do by their Hippocratic Oath.

Lawyers for the Brady Center were involved in this case and did a great job of defending the rights of professionals to do their jobs and to keep us safe from devastating gun violence. More toddlers have shot Americans than terrorists. Isn’t this a national public health and safety epidemic? Is there any rational reason to keep this from happening however we can?

Below is from the Brady Center’s statement, in its’ entirety,  about the ruling:

Today, in a landmark decision with national repercussions, a federal appeals court struck down an NRA-backed Florida law that restricted doctors from talking to their patients about the risks of guns. The decision by the full panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta is a victory for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Ropes & Gray, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of doctors who believed the law violated their First Amendment rights.

Wollschlaeger v. Scott was filed on June 6, 2011, challenging the Florida law, under which doctors can be censored, fined, and have their licenses to practice medicine revoked if the Florida Board of Medicine found they violated the law.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “The gun lobby and its lap dogs don’t want Americans to know the truth about the danger of guns in the home because it will hurt their bottom line. The fact is, guns are far more likely to kill a child or family member than protect them. We are pleased the Court recognized Americans have a constitutional right to hear the truth about guns, and the gun lobby has no right to silence doctors or keep patients in the dark. We will continue to work with the medical community to get the truth out, to protect American children and families from the scourge of gun violence.”

Jonathan Lowy, co-counsel in the case and Director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project, said: “Today’s ruling is an important victory for public safety and free speech rights, and a crushing defeat for the corporate gun lobby and the politicians who do its bidding. Politicians and special interest lobbies have no business standing between doctors and their patients, or keeping doctors from telling people the truth about the risks of guns or other products. Doctors have the right to decide how best to advice patients about risks that may endanger their families, and parents have a right to full information so they can make smart, informed decisions about how to keep their families safe.”

Ropes & Gray partner Doug Hallward-Driemeier said, “This decision is critical to the health and safety of Florida families. It makes clear that the First Amendment does not allow the government, on the basis of politics, to interfere with a doctor providing her best medical advice to her patient.”

Nancy Evans, Brady Campaign Sarasota Chapter president, said, “This is an incredible victory not only for Florida doctors but for our entire nation. I joined the fight a year ago because I believe our doctors should be able to have any conversations necessary to keep their patients healthy and safe. I am so thankful the court struck down this terrible law.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the firms law Ropes & Gray LLP and Astigarraga Davis, on behalf of individual Florida doctors, as well as organizations representing 11,000 Florida health care providers, including the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Chapter, and the American College of Physicians, Florida Chapter. Douglas Hallward-Driemeier of Ropes and Gray argued the case as lead counsel for the Plaintiffs.

In 2012, a trial judge in the Southern District of Florida held that the law was unconstitutional and granted a preliminary injunction. In 2014 a divided three judge panel of the 11th Circuit reversed. The full 11th Circuit heard the case en banc in 2016.

Numerous studies have proven that a gun in the home actually makes its residents less safe — 89% of unintentional shooting deaths of children occur in the home. The reality is that a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or accidental shooting, than in self-defense. Recent research has shown that one third of all households with children under the age of 18 have a firearm, and more than 40% of these households store their guns unlocked.

So there we have it. The yin and yang of gun policy in America. I believe these opposing views of our world affect almost all of us. Who among us does not have a family member or a close friend who we feel could be, perhaps temporarily, potentially dangerous if they have access to a firearm? Who among us does not trust their physicians or healthcare providers to do what they were trained to do professionally to keep us healthy and safe?

If you want to understand the wide ranging ripple effect of gun violence and the financial, emotional and physical toll it takes on individuals, families, communities and our health care system ( which costs us all financially) take a look at this amazing story of a man who received a face transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota after attempting a gun suicide. Ironically his new face came from another young man who died from gunshot injuries in a gun suicide.

This is an emotional story at the least…. the ripple effect of gun violence.

There are no evil motives here. There are only sincere and fact-based attempts to prevent gun violence and the effects it has on our families and communities.

But we have a world where it’s us vs. them with no common sense conversation or policy in the middle. We are talking about our families and our children and grandchildren. Let’s look at what the true interests are on both sides of this issue and come down on the side of public health and safety, not profits or power.

 

 

Minnesotans and background checks

state-fair
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Minnesota State Fair attendees, a pretty good cross section of Minnesotans from all over the state, have once again confirmed that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is something that ought to happen. From the report released after the Fair closed:

 

2. Should criminal background checks be required on all gun sales, including private transactions and at gun shows? Yes…………………………………………… 86.2%……………… (5,556) No……………………………………………. 11.5%………………… (739) Undecided/No Opinion ………………. 2.3%………………….. (150)

These poll results are consistent with all other polls taken about this issue both in Minnesota and nationally. Not once have a clear majority of Minnesotans said they don’t want background checks on all gun sales. That being the case, what has been the response of our Minnesota legislators?

Sigh.

In 2013 the Minnesota legislature had an opportunity to pass a law to require background checks on all sales at gun shows and on-line. In spite of several polls showing strong support from Minnesotans taken by the Star Tribune and by KSTP news network, the bill never got a vote in the House.

Aren’t we better than this? A small minority of Minnesotans think, apparently, that felons, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill, fugitives and others who definitely should not have guns should be able to buy them anyway- and buy them legally. Or, is this denial? Or is it something else? What could it be?

Selling guns without background checks is not illegal if one is a private seller. Why? Because we have allowed our legislature to be bullied by the gun lobbyists and leaders who make false claims that requiring the very same background checks now performed by federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs)extended to private sellers would lead to gun registration and confiscation. This kind of ludicrous claim should not be accepted by our legislators any more.

Why have they believed it before? Fear. Fear of whom? Money? Influence? Fear of losing? The small minority of noisy gun owners who have drunk the kool aid of the far right have kept up this mantra of fear and paranoia for so many years that it is hard to break through it with the truth.

The truth is that Brady background checks will save lives if applied to all gun sales. The gun lobby hates the fact that over 2 million gun buyers have been prohibited from purchasing from federally licensed dealers since the Brady law took effect in 1994. What don’t they like? They have made false claims that those who have been denied shouldn’t have been. But this article from The Trace highlights the numbers and the reasons why someone was denied purchasing a firearm. Felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, illegal aliens, someone under indictment, unlawful users of controlled substances, and others have not been able to purchase guns from FFLs.

We should be thankful and relieved that these prohibited purchasers who tried to buy guns were denied. But they are NOT denied if buying from a private seller at a gun show, an on-line site, classified newspaper ad or flea market.

This is stupid, dangerous and ludicrous. It makes no common sense.

No one is saying that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales will lead to no gun deaths. We know better. There are many ways for prohibited people to get guns. This is but one way to cut off an easy market for those who shouldn’t have guns. Not closing down this “loophole” is insanity at the least and dangerous and irresponsible at the most. And, of course, requiring background checks IS constitutional and has been for over 20 years.

It’s time for a change. The public understands this issue very well. Some in our Congress and legislatures are in denial and in the pockets of the corporate gun lobby and those who believe their gun rights include the potential need to overthrow their own government. These are strong views believed by some and they can have these views whether or not we require background checks on all gun sales. But they should not prevent us from passing laws that will save lives and change a culture that has included allowing easy access to guns by people who should not have it.

If we but follow the money we also see the influence of the gun manufacturers on the gun lobby and vice versa. If sales of guns are important enough to prevent our passing laws that will save lives, we need a change in the conversation, the culture and policy. There is no proof that gun sales will go down if background checks are required on all sales. Is there proof that law abiding gun buyers will stop buying guns from private sellers if they have to undergo a background check identical to the one they undergo at an FFL?

Questions need to be asked and answered. We’ve had #Enough.

On-line gun sales

Live Chat on Orange Keyboard Button.

A new market place has opened up for gun sales since the Brady law took effect in 1994. Like everything else, guns can be purchased on-line. Unlike anything else, no other item for sale on-line rises to the definition of a deadly weapon. I buy a lot of things on-line and I like that convenience. I don’t think any other item I buy on-line requires a background check because a sweater, a pair of shoes, a camera or a rug do not kill people. Guns do.

Armslist.com sells guns on line. I checked out what was available today in Minnesota. Many handguns, hunting rifles and also AR-15s are there for people who choose to purchase guns this way. Some sellers do say they will only ship to an FFL and one must have a Minnesota permit to purchase or carry. That’s good news. But many are sold by private sellers with no background check required. When these kinds of gun sales became available , those in the gun violence prevention movement raised concerns about this new market place for guns. Many gun rights extremists claimed that guns could not be bought on line with no background check. What they thought, or said, was that all guns sold on-line went through sites like Gander Mountain, for example, which has strict policies about shipping the purchased guns to a federally licensed firearms dealer for pick-up. There a background check would be required.

Were these folks in denial, lying or didn’t they realize that sites like Armslist.com allowed private sellers to post their wares and sell with no background checks just as they do at gun shows?  Someone I know once spoke with a reporter from the Star Tribune who said that some of the gun folks told him we were lying when we said this was possible. She directed him to Armslist.com and while on the phone call and asked him to click on Minnesota and then take a look at what was available. He admitted that we were right and the gun folks were wrong.

Radcliffe Haughton bought his gun from Armslist.com with no background check. He was a prohibited purchaser. Soon after the purchase, his estranged wife and 2 other people were dead after he shot them all in a fit of rage over a separation. Several others were injured. From the article:

Haughton was able to buy a gun despite a Milwaukee County judge issuing a restraining order against him just three days before the shooting. The restraining order barred him under federal law from owning a firearm or buying one from a gun dealer.

Haughton sidestepped the federal law by purchasing the gun privately.

Private sellers are not required to run background checks and do not have to follow a 48-hour waiting period, required at the time of the shooting for gun dealers in Wisconsin. The waiting period was intended, in part, as a cooling-off period in domestic violence cases. That waiting period was eliminated in a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker over summer.

The lawsuit says Armslist, and its owners, were liable because they created the marketplace that could facilitate such a transaction.

Facebook allows private groups to buy and sell guns to each other. No background checks are required. The transactions are made, as they are on Armslist.com when the seller and buyer choose a place to make the transaction and the cash is exchanged for the gun(s).

It was just a matter of time before people started getting caught trafficking in guns bought and sold on-line. This Minnesota man is one of them.  From the article:

“Feldman’s actions in this case put firearms in the hands of criminals in the Twin Cities and jeopardized public safety,” said James Modzelewski, special agent in charge of the St. Paul field division for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “[The] ATF is committed to working with local police and prosecutors to identify illegal sources of firearms, and hold them accountable. If we’re going to impact gun violence in our communities, we all need to work together to prevent criminals from getting guns.” (…)

The ATF found evidence linking Feldman’s sales to several handguns used in serious crimes.

The indictment said Feldman regularly bought firearms — mostly handguns — from licensed out-of-state sellers using an online auction site, had the weapons transferred to a Burnsville gun shop where he received them, and then quickly advertised them for sale on another website that facilitates gun sales without criminal background checks.

The allegations span two years, with Feldman’s last sale (of more than 50) coming in January at a shopping mall parking lot to an undercover officer used by the ATF.

His indictment came soon after Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Justice would toughen federal gun control efforts, including a warning that “a person can be [considered to be] engaged in the business of dealing in firearms” even if they conduct transactions only at gun shows or online. Those doing so, Obama said, must be licensed, just like dealers who run their businesses out of a traditional storefront.

Feldman advertised on Armslist.com to sell guns he had earlier bought from licensed dealers online. He first had the firearms transferred to L.E. Gun Sales in Burnsville, where he would receive them after completing required paperwork and submitting to a background check.

So much for the “law abiding” gun owner. He was able to purchase the guns legally, going through a background check himself but then turned around and sold them with no background checks. He was acting as a gun dealer and not requiring background checks. This is why we need background checks on all gun sales. These kinds of transactions help provide crime guns. And we need to enforce these laws, already on the books.

Why do some people believe that it’s OK to sell guns with no background checks? How do they know who is on the other end of the transaction? They don’t. It could be an ex-felon who can’t have guns. It could be a domestic abuser or someone who had been adjudicated mentally ill at some point. It could be a fugitive or a terrorist ( who can buy guns legally in the U.S. and we can’t stop them from doing so, thanks to our lax gun laws.)

This just makes no common sense. The corporate gun lobby continues to resist measures to require background checks on all gun sales. Why? They claim that these kinds of sales will lead to gun registration and confiscation even though the very same background checks that have been in place for over 20 years now have not done this.

The gun lobby is wrong of course. But some of our leaders seem to believe them and the minority of gun rights activists in league with the gun lobby cry wolf any time proposed bills come up.

The times are changing however as more Americans are now educated as to the fact that some gun sales do go without background checks. In fact, about 40% do. So the analogy that seems to work best is to think about going through the TSA checkpoints when traveling by plane. And then think about 40% of people who can just walk through without having their bags checked or going through the metal detector. And this analogy becomes even more scary considering how many guns are found in carry-on bags by the TSA.

So the long and short of it is- in order to protect the public from at least some of the daily shootings, the very least we can do is to require background checks on all gun sales and do what the majority of Americans have agreed is the right thing to do. Why not treat every sale the same? Just like all on-line sales of books, cosmetics, clothing, toys, etc. are treated the same for all, sales of guns should be uniform. No one can buy Sudafed without asking the pharmacist- there are no exceptions.  Many states require controlling the substance contained in Sudafed:

Pharmacy is one of the most highly regulated professions.3 Pharmacists are the gatekeepers of dangerous drugs. As such we are in a position to control access to one of the most dangerous of the drugs of abuse. We are at the end of the protected, closed loop of drug distribution. When it comes to protecting society from the illegal traffic in harmful drugs, we can make a difference. In so doing, pharmacists not only follow the law but fulfill our duty to protect society.

Hmmmm. This is a strong statement. Why doesn’t it apply to gun dealers- even private sellers?

Sales of tobacco products require an ID if a young person appears to be below the age of 18 and sellers can be fined for selling to a minor. Selling alcohol to a minor can result in severe fines as well as jail time. We all know that drugs are illegally bought and sold all over the world and that that is a huge problem in our country. The penalties are stiff if someone is caught and we have put a lot of resources into the efforts to stop drug trafficking but it is still happening.  It’s not easy to stop illegal activity like this but the fact that we are putting up no obstacles to dealing with the sales of guns to people who shouldn’t have them is ludicrous and dangerous.

There are exceptions for selling guns to those who can’t legally own them. It’s called legal private sales with no background checks. Gun dealers are required to be licensed but are not monitored as they should be, by design of the corporate gun lobby.

We are talking about allowing deadly weapons to fall into the hands of people who can’t buy them legally from licensed dealers.

This is the opposite of protecting Americans from public health and safety problems.

As Congress finally comes back from its’ longest break ever, lots of important things will be on their plates but little will happen because it’s an election year and they are afraid of their own shadows. We won’t expect much. But we will be watching to see how Congress will avoid dealing with a public health and safety crisis of gun violence not seen in any other country.

Congress needs to act. Ask them to act. If they don’t ask them why not? And keep the pressure on. We can’t let them ignore the fact that over 30,000 Americans die each year from gunshot injuries. Too many families are devastated daily by the carnage. It’s time for that to change.

#Enough.

My travels with no guns

no guns allowedI posted earlier about a trip I was going to take with my family to Glacier National Park and to Seattle. I also posted about the gun laws in the states we would be traveling through on the Amtrak just as a way of comparison of gun laws. Montana, where we stayed for 4 days, has pretty loose gun laws and a high rate of gun suicides. From this article from The Trace, we find this:

Where the distinctive cause of death is gun suicides, the numbers also show much larger than usual shares of residents owning guns. Researchers led by epidemiologists at Columbia University calculated last year that Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming placed in the top six for state gun-ownership rates. At 62 percent and 57 percent, respectively, Alaska and Idaho are double the national gun ownership rate of 29 percent that the researchers used as a baseline.

The lethality of guns means that people who attempt suicide with them are more likely to succeed than those using other means.

In Montana, many of the gun deaths are suicides which we don’t usually hear about in the news unless it involves others as in mass shootings or domestic homicide/suicide. Of course we heard nothing about gun deaths while traveling but I do need to say that I did not see one gun while on our trip. I looked to see if anyone was open carrying. I suppose there could have been folks carrying concealed and I didn’t see it. But I also know that many of the people we saw were tourists with their families, likely with no interest in carrying a gun around.

While visiting Glacier Park we took a guided hike through the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake.

Avalanche Lake

It was stunning and amazingly wild. There were signs along the way suggesting what to do if one encountered a Grizzly Bear which some folks we talked to had seen. Our guide was not carrying a gun. They have common sense measures to avoid bears or deal with one if sighted. The National Park Service issues these warnings and safety tips without mentioning carrying a gun. We could have purchased bear spray in many places along our way but didn’t.  In fact, we were disappointed that we did not sight a bear off in the distance.

We did notice however, that our hotel in Whitefish, Montana posted a sign saying that guns were not allowed. And as you can see by the top photo on this post, the famous Mercantile store in Polebridge, Montana, an outpost at the far north end of Glacier Park and very isolated, does not want either guns or bear spray inside.

Mercantile

I can see why. It was crowded inside- lots of tourists and locals go there for provisions as it is the only place around for many miles. It’s historical purpose was to provide explorers and early visitors to the Park with food and other needed items for their trip into the wilderness.

While there we enjoyed the baked goods, sandwiches and Huckleberries we bought before we went into the amazingly beautiful Bowman Lake campground located within Glacier Park showing us another blue-green glacial lake. The day was rainy with low clouds so we did not get the view we hoped for. But it was beautiful nonetheless. Bowman Lake

Seattle, of course, is located in a state where the citizens decided for themselves that they wanted to require background checks on all gun sales. It is a funky and unusual city hosting the Pike Street Market with a sea of humanity, and the Space Needle where tourists gather to wait to go up into the Space Needle for the spectacular view. Guns are not needed there either. One vendor in a wheel chair who promised my granddaughter and I 2 magic tricks for $5 called me a liar in a loud voice when I said “maybe later”. He was right of course. I had no intention of buying his magic tricks. It did not end in any confrontation but I suppose it could have and people have been shot for less in angry confrontations.

At the top of the Space Needle the view was spectacular. This was also a very crowded place with shoulder to shoulder visitors. The beauty was incredible on the clear day we visited. Mount Ranier was showing off for us. It is unimaginable that anyone would want or need to carry a gun there where tourists were crowded in from countries all over the world to see the view from the top.

Mt. Ranier

(By the way, our bags were searched there as well for weapons or other contraband or dangerous items.)

So in the wilderness, the parks and the big cities, I saw no need for a gun. The Amtrak train depot had explicit instructions for declaring any guns and that they had to be packed in stored luggage and not on the train. In small compartments and aisles on trains that are jerking around and coming to sudden stops, one can see why a gun would just not work out well.

In 2009 Congress passed a Credit Card bill necessary for the economic recovery. In the sausage making of the bill and the need for the corporate gun lobby to get its’ fingerprints on just about anything, an amendment was added to the bill to allow guns in our National Parks. It was a bad idea. Most people thought it would not be a problem. But as we know, we are beginning to see the results of our guns everywhere gun culture where “accidental” discharges are happening just about anywhere some person with a gun who doesn’t understand that they are not needed everywhere, drops a gun or a gun drops by itself through carelessness and discharges. Sometimes there are deaths and injuries, other times not.

More guns are not making us safer.

There have been incidents of gun discharges in our National Parks. According to this article, they may be an anomaly but if one person were to be killed we would likely not call it an anomaly.

Last week a careless man carrying a gun into the Old Faithful Lodge, “accidentally” discharged his gun. Guns are not allowed in the Lodge but they are allowed in the Park. The result? A shot rang out where hundreds of tourists were trying to enjoy their vacation. From the article:

Charissa Reid, a spokeswoman for the park, said a maintenance worker reported to park law enforcement Wednesday afternoon that a gun went off inside a men’s bathroom at the Old Faithful Lodge.

No one was injured. The shot is believed to have been accidental, based on statements from multiple witnesses, including at least one who was in the bathroom at the time.

Park rangers are investigating but have not been able to identify the man with the gun. He is presumed to have fled after the incident. (…)

People are allowed to carry guns inside Yellowstone National Park. A ban on firearms inside park boundaries was lifted in 2010. But people aren’t allowed to bring guns into any of the park’s buildings or any of the buildings operated by the concessionaire company, like Old Faithful Lodge.

Shooting a gun inside Yellowstone National Park is illegal.

I have a question. If shooting a gun inside of the Parks is illegal, why carry one in the first place? Just asking.

Another place that guns will not be allowed this year is at the Minnesota State Fair. From the article:

No weapons of any sort will be allowed on the fairgrounds, he said. No fireworks — “we have plenty of our own.” Ditto for alcoholic beverages.

No need for guns at a State Fair. Most state fairs do bag searches and require people to go through metal detectors. As it turns out, guns have been banned from the State Fair for a long time now and the gun rights activists don’t like it. But I am guessing they among the small minority who think guns are a good idea at a fair, teaming with people, small kids running around and babies in strollers. We know that loaded guns have been “accidentally” discharged in many public places. This is about public safety and nothing else. The gun rights folks cannot guarantee that everyone with a gun will be safe with that gun while carrying. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill or harm others. There are no reasons to take chances in public places where families and large crowds of people gather.

As more people own and carry guns, it is inevitable that more crazy and dangerous incidents will occur in public places and anywhere, for that matter. It is time to ask serious questions about the need for so many guns in public places and get answers as to why they are necessary. Guns in public places have created a real conundrum. It is not working out as many thought it would. They are not being used for self defense often enough to allow for loaded guns in public places. But rather enough incidents of “accidental” discharges have occurred to make us all wonder why they are allowed to be carried in the first place. And our children are clearly at risk from loaded guns at home and other places.

We are better than this. It’s time for all of us to put our heads together and work out the best way to keep Americans safe from gun violence. Since the majority wants that to happen anyway, it’s our leaders who have the onus to make it happen. It’s up to the rest of us to pressure our leaders, change the conversation and eventually the culture of gun violence that only occurs in America.

We’ve had #Enough.

 

UPDATE:

Speaking of traveling, we did rent a car while visiting Glacier Park. This Tennessee family found a loaded gun in their rental car where 2 small children were sitting. Luckily they found the gun before something tragic occurred. This is just not OK. There are too many careless gun owners out there not thinking about the consequences of their carelessness. There are no excuses for carelessness with guns.