Blogging for gun safety reform and changing the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Common sense gun laws and gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.
Merry Christmas everyone. I am celebrating with my family and having a good time skating on the rink in my son’s back yard, enjoying the grandchildren and the good food. Christmas cookies, of course, are a part of the celebration with some good old Scandinavian favorites reminding me of my own childhood Christmas’ with a Norwegian grandpa and Swedish grandma and grandpa on the other side. 3 of my grandparents emigrated to Minnesota from their homelands, leaving to look for better opportunities in America. That is the case for many then and now. In spite of what our President says, immigrants who come here are not all coming in with aides and felony records. They are not rapists, criminals and miscreants. They are decent people who look to us as a better place.
Is it? Just saying…..
But back to Christmas. At our house we ate Lutefisk of course for the Norwegian side and Swedish meatballs for the other side. My Norwegian grandpa liked hardboiled egg and butter gravy on his Lutefisk. The Swedish grandparents liked the cream sauce. I remember that we couldn’t leave the Christmas Eve table until my Norwegian grandpa was finished with his Lutefisk. He was a bit of an ornery guy but he would actually playfully eat more Lutefisk on purpose to keep us from getting to the present opening tradition.
We don’t eat Lutefisk now at our family Christmas’. No one likes it. I can’t blame them. But it is still served at a few restaurants and a local Lutheran church serves a Lutefisk dinner complete with all the fixings and singing of the Lutefisk song that my mother used to sing to us. It is a very popular dinner. Meatballs and Alaskan Salmon ( caught by a local man- a friend- who spends some of his summer months in Alaska catching the Salmon.) It has come to be known by his name at local grocery stores and it is wonderful.
So as I reflect on my own Christmas’ past and present I am hoping that Americans who celebrate will experience some peace and joy. Many do not at this time of year. It is stressful and even depressing for many. Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of my own father’s death from a massive stroke that left us making funeral preparations at Christmas time. His funeral, on Dec. 26th was packed with friends and family. He was a well-loved man with a kind and gentle spirit who left us too soon and left my mother to live as a widow for another almost 25 years.
My Dad had a lot of common sense about everything, including hunting and gun safety. He taught me how to shoot a hunting gun but I didn’t like to hunt. But my family were great outdoors people enjoying hunting, fishing, boating, their beloved cabin near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, snowmobiling, skiing, hockey, and others. Had he lived he would have been very sad and upset about my sister’s shooting death.
My brother who suffers from PTSD related to service in VietNam and Parkinson’s Disease, likely service related, doesn’t like Christmas. He never has. I am saddened by his physical condition and his deteriorating health. Our Veterans are vulnerable and at this time of the year, some are not merry.
So as some of us celebrate this time of year, some of us also have empty seats at tables and family celebrations because loved ones were shot and killed or used a gun to take their own lives. We remember them at this time of year because we celebrate without them at our otherwise happy family gatherings.
And so, before writing this post, this story of an American Christmas gone wrong came to my attention. It’s a story of a family tragedy. It’s a story of our political state. It’s a story of hate, evil and the awful fact that in America, 17 year olds can get their hands on guns and shoot a family over anger and the danger that comes with extreme political philosophy.
How does a 17 year old become a neo-Nazi? And why are neo-Nazis and White Supremacists on the rise in America? What has happened to our country?
This story makes me ill. But I am writing about it because it does reflect a certain something that is happening in our country that frightens me. It’s not normal. It’s not right.
From the linked story:
Buckley Kuhn-Fricker was so disturbed by what she discovered about her teenage daughter’s boyfriend that she spent a tumultuous week pushing for a breakup. By Thursday, she texted a friend saying the “outspoken Neo Nazi” was out of their lives.
But just hours later, the family said that the 17-year-old boyfriend had shot and killed Kuhn-Fricker, 43, and her husband, Scott, 48, in their Reston, Va., home. It happened around 5 a.m. Friday, while the couple’s children and relatives were inside. They had gathered to celebrate the Christmas holiday.
Christmas will never be the same for the teen-ager in this family or any of the family members and friends who loved the two victims. She witnessed the killing of both of her parents and the attempted suicide of her neo-Nazi boyfriend who her parents unsuccessfully tried to get her away from to no avail.
Shootings have a wide ripple effect on many. PTSD is a factor for many victims and survivors and it doesn’t end with an arrest or the death of the shooter. We all pay in some way for this. That doesn’t sink in when a gun is available and used to “solve problems” or seek revenge or in anger at someone.
If you read on in the article you will see that this neo-Nazi teenager had a gun in his possession when he sneaked into his girlfriend’s bedroom. Why? Why does he carry a gun he cannot legally possess or carry while sleeping with his 16 year old girlfriend? What is wrong with this scene? Everything actually. This is lunacy and a particular American tragedy. It is not “making America great again.”
I have an uncomfortable, unsettled feeling about where we are right now as a country. It has been mounting all year to a crescendo of ugliness and divisiveness that is threatening all of us. But when our leader himself is fomenting fear, paranoia, name calling, racism, divisiveness, hate for anyone who disagrees or doesn’t believe the same as he does, blaming, stoking racist attitudes, what should we expect?
One thing we ought to expect is that our own leaders at the White House and Congress stop ratcheting up this ugliness. And Trump T.V. and N.R.A. T.V. is also right up there adding fuel to the fire. All it takes is one or two unhinged believers in a cause with a gun to cause mayhem and tragedy. How many times have we seen this in our country?
Many of these happened before 2017 of course and we were somewhat surprised at the hate, intolerance, racism and anger that caused people with guns to kill other innocent people. But now we are also worried that this kind of hate is ramped up by leaders who are also intolerant, angry, show racist sentiments, anti-immigrant sentiments and make statements that fuel the anger and hate.
This is not the great America we deserve.
We are better than this.
On this Christmas holiday, our Better Angels need to be called out to save us.
Not at Christmas time- not now. Shootings know no boundaries nor stop for holidays. That is the America in which we live but that is not the America we want.
At the end of my last post, I linked to some articles about the white terrorism event in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since that time, of course, unless you have been living under a rock, you know the political and actual fall-out of that awful “rally”.
It was a chilly rainy foggy day in my hometown yesterday as I started this post. It has felt chilly everywhere in the U.S. since last week-end. The entire country felt a chill when neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, White terror alt-right groups come to a city to cause trouble and make a point, we can expect chilling results. When they come armed and wearing shields, helmets, carrying lit tiki torches, it was meant to intimidate everyone else. When hateful angry chants come out of their mouths, it was meant to intimidate and to entice others to protest against them. They were prepared for violence. They trained for violence. They knew exactly what they were doing.
White Nationalists, nazis and neo-nazis, KKK members are all unsavory characters who made a conscious decision to descend on Charlottesville to make a point. They hate Jews, Muslims, Black people, Brown people, anyone who is not white and doesn’t look like them. Remember the first and actual Nazis of Germany who demanded a pure Aryan race?
That didn’t work out well at all. We fought a world war to stop this kind of hatred. My Dad fought in World War II. He would be horrified, if he were alive today, at what is going on in our country. It was a dark time in our world as Jews were almost eradicated by Hitler and his gang of miscreants, terrorists, killers and truly ugly and deplorable people.
Mistakenly we believed that after the atrocities of World War II, we left that kind of bigotry behind us. But white supremacists and white terrorists have been amongst us and sort of underground but sometimes raise their ugly heads.
Mistakenly we believed that once the Civil Rights movement allowed black people to vote as equal citizens and children and teens to attend the schools in their neighborhoods and the college of their choice, we could stop dealing with the hate.
Mistakenly we thought our first Black President would provide an example of how anyone can become President of the United States. And then anyone did. Our 45th President isn’t just anyone as it turns out. His election and his presidency are an alt right reaction to our first Black President and to the increase in the population of “others” who are not of the white Christian persuasion.
Thus we have hatred and fear. We have a President who wants to stop those “others” from coming into our country. He wants to stop them from voting and wants to get rid of policies that they believe disadvantage the pure white people of our country.
White privilege is raising its’ ugly head. The extremists representing this point of view have been welcomed into one of our major political parties. Armed militia members are welcome to carry weapons of war on their backs in cities all over America. They are because we haven’t stopped them. We have been complicit. Some of our leaders care more about their majority and their own elections than they care about our democracy and the public safety of American citizens. That has become obviously clear in recent weeks.
Follow the money. Follow the power. Follow the influence. Follow the culture and the rhetoric. Follow elections. Follow the hatred, the fear, the paranoia of some white people and you will find the anger at the bottom of all of this.
Here’s their breakdown on the number of deaths caused by individuals of different ideologies: 95 by jihadist, 68 by far-right, and eight by black separatist/national/supremacist.
Even individuals who carry out jihadist attacks, however, are sometimes American citizens or longtime residents.
“The terrorist threat in the United States is almost entirely homegrown, as no foreign terrorist organization has successfully directed and orchestrated an attack in the United States since 9/11,” said Albert Ford, a program associate with the International Security and Fellows programs at New America.
Of 418 individuals tracked by New America who are accused of jihadist terrorism related crimes in the United States since 9/11, 85 percent of them were either U.S. citizens or U.S. legal residents, and about half were born American citizens, Ford said.
And further, in case you believe the notion that terror attacks in America are mostly committed by radical Islamic terrorists, this is interesting from the above article:
Until the Orlando nightclub shooting, “the number of deaths caused by far-right-wing attacks outnumbered those caused by jihadism-related attacks,” Ford said.
Listen to their words. They knew what they were doing.
As we all know a woman was killed as the result of a home grown white terrorist in Charlottesville. But never mind that Heather Heyer was killed by one of their own. They don’t mind if a few people are killed. That was what I heard one White Supremacist say on a network interview. Really?
Yes, really. They don’t care if people die. They are angry white guys ( and a few women) with violence and evil in their hearts and minds.
For example, the Nazis were not “quietly protesting” as claimed by our very own President. If he meant it was quiet to walk along (armed) issuing insults and offensive remarks about Jews and Black people while holding their KKK like tiki torches ( we all know what that was intended to mean), he was wrong of course. Was he wrong intentionally? Was it a dog whistle? We don’t really know because that’s the way things go these days in America.
And then there is the gun rights extremism now becoming increasingly strident and threatening. Hyperbole and ramping up fear for their own cause of promoting the sale of guns is very dangerous. From the article:
In a Feb. 24 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the National Rifle Assocation’s Wayne LaPierre linked those events with incidents of people being attacked if they supported the president.
“Right now, we face a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us,” warned LaPierre. “If the violent left brings their terror to our communities, our neighborhoods, or into our homes, they will be met with the resolve and the strength and the full force of American freedom in the hands of the American people. Among them and behind them are some of the most radical political elements there are. Anarchists, Marxists, communists and the whole rest of the left-wing Socialist brigade.”
On March 31, the footage of the inaugural rioting appeared for the first time in a political TV ad. In “Extremists,” a commercial produced by the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC to defeat Georgia congressional candidate Jon Ossoff, footage of peaceful Women’s March events — one of which Ossoff attended — was blended with footage of anarchists smashing windows and starting fires.
I attended the Women’s March in D.C. There was zero violence. A small group of people not associated with the Women’s March was involved the day before in some violent incidents. But never mind the facts.
What could possibly go wrong? As the rhetoric heats up, we can expect to see more and more armed citizens who fancy themselves as militia and insurrectionists ready to “take their country back” and ” make America great again.”
It will not go well.
The NRA has become more and more radical and dangerous as they display some questionable and threatening videos on NRA TV and in speeches to conservative groups. Several articles have been written in the past week about the reality of the NRA’s leaders and lobbyists. They are not representing average gun owners.
The last thing I would like to see is one of those white supremacists taking the NRA at its word and going out gunning after members of a “terrorist cell.” But if Wayne-o keeps equating carrying a gun with patriotism and Trump-o keeps saying that patriots can make America great again, you have all the ingredients for someone to walk up to a crowd of demonstrators, pull out a cannon and bang away.
It is, of course, perfectly within the prerogative of an advocacy group to stir anxiety and fear among its members or potential members for the sake of attracting donations. But gun owners, contemplating whether to re-up their forty-dollar annual memberships or hand over their credit cards for the first time, might consider the fact that they’re being manipulated. And for those (rightly) outraged by the intimations of violence in the videos, it is worth weighing the reality that we’re part of the N.R.A.’s strategy, too.
There is really no question about what is going on with the corporate gun lobby.
And to make matters worse, there’s a new App that promotes the selling of all types of firearms with no background checks. In light of recent events, there is no excuse for selling guns to just anyone who may not be a law abiding citizen. Gunswipe.com is a dangerous new way to sell guns.
What we need now are stronger laws to make sure guns are only in the hands of those who can be responsible for them. We are going backwards and it’s a dangerous backwards trajectory.
Like ISIS attackers in Europe, the Charlottesville murderer used a car as his assault weapon. But Charlottesville this past weekend was crammed with anti-social personalities carrying sub-military firearms. It could just as easily have been one—or more—of those gun-carriers who made the decision to kill. If so, Americans might this week be mourning not one life lost to an attack, but dozens.
As recently as 2009, the nation retained a capacity to be shocked when individuals carried weapons to political events. Such was the case in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 18, 2009:
A man toting an assault rifle was among a dozen protesters carrying weapons while demonstrating outside President Obama’s speech to veterans on Monday, but no laws were broken. It was the second instance in recent days in which weapons have been seen near presidential events.
The man who followed Obama with a rifle in Arizona was sending a wordless message. Not so the man who had showed up a few days before at an Obama event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. With a handgun strapped to his thigh, he carried a placard reading: “It is time to water the tree of liberty!”—a reference to Thomas Jefferson’s famous remark about the periodic need for revolutionary bloodshed.
What can be done? We can begin by acknowledging that America’s ranching days are behind it. Within metropolitan areas, there is no reason—zero—that a weapon should ever be carried openly. The purpose is always to intimidate—to frighten others away from their lawful rights, not only free speech and lawful assembly, but voting as well. This happened in Loudon County, Virginia, on Election Day 2016:
A man wearing a Donald Trump shirt and carrying a weapon stood outside a voting location in Loudon County, Virginia. … ‘I had my 9-year-old son with me. I felt intimidated,’ [Erika] Cotti said. ‘And I had to explain to my 9-year-old why a man with a 357 magnum is standing outside the polling station.’
Cotti said the man offered her a Republican sample ballot, which she declined.
‘He’s like, “Who are you going to vote for, crooked Hillary?” And I was like, “That’s really none of your business,”’ Cotti said, adding that the man was standing in the sidewalk outside of the office when they left and blocking their path.
Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill and they intimidate others when openly carried. That is the truth. In this polarized gun crazed culture representing extremist groups, what we definitely don’t need is more intimidation with guns because it will inevitably lead to more injuries and deaths.
No other democracy on Earth tolerates such antics. When libertarian-minded Americans lament the over-militarization of police, they might give some thought to what it takes to police a society where potential lawbreakers think it their right to accumulate force that would do credit to a Somali warlord. And not only accumulate it, but carry that force into public to brandish against fellow citizens who think differently from their local paramilitaries.
It’s not necessary to live like this. No other advanced democracy does. As Americans critically self-examine the forces in their society that enabled the tragedy in Charlottesville, they might give a thought as well to the permission they allow the even graver tragedy that might have happened—and that sooner or later, surely will.
The time has come. Even common sense won’t quell the insatiable gun rights extremists who want to force their will and their guns onto the rest of us. If we don’t get this and deal with this, there will be more and more violence and our democracy will descend into insurrectionism.
Time to act. Time to prevent shootings and deaths. Time to prevent far right extremist groups from arming themselves and marching in our cities against all that our democracy stands for.
One side is plainly wrong. We are not this kind of country, or so I thought. The fact that some Americans are is downright frightening and chilling.
While the rhetoric and the extremist groups are heating up the country, the effect is making us all chilly.
Rejecting open carry is not about guns. Rejecting open carry is about rejecting terror and honoring fundamental American traditions. In Charlottesville, we saw the dystopian alternative — the most un-American racist and extremist hatred, turning our First and Second Amendment rights on their heads and trying to intimidate the rest of us into silence.