New Years Resolutions

new-year-resolutionsHappy 2017 everyone. I have been avoiding the fact that in just  few short weeks, @realDonaldTrump will become our next President. And so I have also been avoiding other things in my life as I grapple with what is going on around me. Time has flown already since the New Year’s holiday. Family time and taking care of things for a relative who has a disability has not allowed me to think much about the new year. But I was drawn back in upon seeing some tweets and Facebook posts about shootings around the new year. It happens every year and, as I have written many times, gun violence does not take a holiday.

In spite of those facts, Congress and legislatures in many states, controlled by gun lobby lapdogs, will disappoint us with their resolutions to loosen laws that save lives and prevent shootings.

Let’s start with the Texas lawmaker who was the victim of celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. Every year, irresponsible gun owners and carriers don’t think about the great risk to others when they decide to shoot loaded guns into the air. Bullets, as we know, have certain trajectories and so when they go up, the natural physics is that they come back down. Whoever or whatever happens to be under the trajectory will be hit.

It seems that the lawmaker is OK and luckily for him, will not suffer from a life long debilitating injury like my friend Joe Jaskolka has. In fact, he is now ready to support a law to deal with celebratory gunfire:

“If my legislation could help save a life, you know, then definitely that’s what we’re gonna be looking at doing,” the Weslaco Democrat said Monday in a phone interview from the Valley Baptist Medical Center shortly before he was released.

That’s what I’m talking about- saving a life ( or lives). Is there something bad about that?

When people are affected by gun violence, it often changes things and makes them realize that this could happen to anyone.

Common sense is what it takes to save lives and keep citizens safe from gun violence.

Some are not as lucky as this lawmaker. Take my friend Joe Jaskolka, for instance. His life has been affected greatly and negatively since a bullet landed in his head from celebratory gunfire:

I got maybe a half-block away from my Grandmother’s home before a “Celebratory bullet” pierced my skull. Better yet, when my cousin Jeff ran back in the house to report to an adult to call 911, “Joe’s just lying on the ground, everyone must have thought I was joking”, but a child with a bullet-hole in the top of his cranium, when my parents (and aunts, uncles, and fellow cousins) were all trying to figure out what happened to me, crazy scenarios started to be heard.

When police searched the rooftops in a few block radius a day later, they found over 700 spent bullets!

When everyone at the party figured out my condition, they along with the medical staff at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) must have all figured I was dead.  You know you’re a dead man when the hospital has a priest sitting with your parents in the Emergency Room to wait for bad news.

Joe was 11 when this happened. When I met him years ago at a national meeting he was sitting in a wheel chair with obvious physical disabilities. We have remained friends for years.

Real stories are worth many gun lobby myths.

Closer to home, several things happened in Minnesota. Two men from the Twin Cities area were shot behind a local Superior, Wisconsin bar. One died in the shooting and one was injured. It was not random. Most shootings are not in fact.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced rather quietly that more states were added to the list of those whose carry permits would not be reciprocated in Minnesota. Why? Not strong enough regulations in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Now there is some common sense.

If anyone can honestly tell me that it is safe for teens under 21 and those without permits to carry will be safe on our streets, then they are not using common sense. For in Minnesota, that is what we have decided we want people to have training and have a permit and be 21. Why would we allow less than that anywhere? Follow the money and the links between the gun lobby which pushes bills to allow anyone to buy and carry guns and the gun industry profits.

And speaking of the gun industry, it looks like gun stocks are falling after the election of the gun lobby’s candidate, Donald Trump. @realDonaldTrump won’t take guns away so no worries- except that people won’t flock to gun stores to buy guns now unless they are afraid of the fear of a President who will confiscate their guns. Now what? Looser laws that will create new markets for deadly weapons.

Of course, Hillary Clinton was not going to take guns away either but the gun lobby said she was. President Obama did not take guns away but the gun lobby said he would. Don’t believe the gun lobby.

Speaking of taking guns away, Congress and the Minnesota state legislatures are back in session. The gun lobby will be busy convincing Congress and state legislators that more guns are needed by more people to keep them safe. They are wrong, according to the facts and reality. But never mind the truth. As I have written before in a previous post, up is down and black is white.

As Mark Twain once said, ” “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”” That is more true today than ever.

One of the first orders of business in the Republican led House ( aside from the insane ethics debacle) was to introduce a measure to fine any House member who live streams from the House floor. Republicans didn’t like it when Rep. John Lewis and other Democrats staged a sit-in last June to ask for a vote on background checks. Now they want to silence members who don’t share the views of the gun lobby lapdogs but rather the majority of Americans.

Shame on them. But they have no shame. They would rather punish opposing views than save lives apparently.

But thankfully there are some in Congress who are not afraid of the gun lobby. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey will re-introduce a bill to allow government agencies to do research on the public health crisis of gun violence.

We will see a lot of gun bills going both ways but the conservatives, Republican lapdogs for the gun lobby and those who are afraid to stand against that group are giddy with the idea that they can weaken gun laws and allow more dangerous behavior with guns than ever before. For the life of my sister, I can’t understand this glee at weakening laws that save lives. People will die as a result. Will that matter to these lapdogs?

Does it matter to them that one toddler a week has shot someone in 2015 and now 2016? If not, why not? Avoiding the truth means avoiding the facts that these kinds of shootings are avoidable.

Maybe if one of their own is struck down by a stray bullet or shot by a crazed or angry person or a toddler who shouldn’t have had a gun in the first place ( when it could have been prevented) one or two of them will realize how wrong they have been.

It will be a busy few months (years). Let’s hope we can keep the pressure on this issue and shed light on those who take money from the nation’s most powerful lobby- the NRA. 1Pulse4America is keeping track. It is not a pretty picture. When North Carolina Senator Burr takes over $800,000 from the NRA in “blood money” we can count on him to oppose common sense gun legislation that could save lives.

For if a legislator or Congress member is beholden to the gun lobby, we are less safe as a result.

Facts matter. Accountability matters. Lives matter more than anything else.

Happy New Year everyone. I resolve to do whatever it takes to prevent gun violence and save lives. How about you?

Happy bullet free New Year

Bingo lottery balls 2016 and fireworks

Every year there are senseless gun deaths and injuries due to celebratory gun fire. One has to wonder why those who shoot off their guns on New Years Eve don’t have common sense. Perhaps they don’t understand that bullets have a trajectory that ends somewhere. What goes up must come down. An article from The Trace explains how dangerous this practice is. From the article:

In the 48 communities where ShotSpotter’s equipment is deployed, the company reports, “Statistics show that there are strong seasonal gunfire periods, where approximately 15 percent of all annual gunfire incidents take place on the holidays around New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and the Fourth of July.” In the fourth quarter of 2014, according to ShotSpotter, “there were 16,597 incidents in ShotSpotter coverage areas, and of those, 3,556 (or 21.4 percent) took place during the New Year’s Eve period.” The overwhelming majority of those rounds will land harmlessly or lodge in roofs or other property. But in areas with high population density, some will inevitably hit human beings. And so, each year before the holiday season, police, city officials, and activists from California to Ohio to Texas to Florida are compelled to call on their communities to refrain from spraying bullets skyward.

The impoverishment of data notwithstanding, it’s safe to stipulate at this point that the odds of any single person’s being hit by a celebratory round are extremely low. Even contentious research on stray shootings in general acknowledges that celebratory gunfire (wounds from “falling bullets”) represents less than 5 percent of all firearm-related injuries.

Though the odds are low, tell that to the families of those who have been killed or injured by celebratory gun fire. Every year, my friend Joe Jaskolka and his father Greg have a press event to let people know that celebratory gunfire is, indeed, very dangerous. Joe was hit by a bullet in Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1998 when he was just 11. Joe is living with the results of that bullet lodged in his head. He is now 28 years old and lives in a wheel chair suffering from ongoing physical disabilities. But he stays involved in the issue of gun violence prevention by warning others of the danger of celebratory gun fire. Joe’s a great young man and I’m happy to call him my friend and colleague. From the above article:

“This is very simple,” said Joe Jaskolka, “what goes up must come down.”

“We went from having an annual New Year’s Eve party to having an annual press conference,” his father, Gregory Jaskolka, said.

So this New Year’s Eve, please use common sense and don’t fire off a gun to celebrate the coming of 2016. For if 2016 is like other years, innocent people will be killed or injured tonight and every day of the new year. Bullets fired into the air or anywhere else cause trauma and devastating results for many American families. Let’s make 2016 a safer year than 2015. Below is a graph provided by the Gun Violence Archive showing the results of shootings in 2015.

2015 toll of gun violence

This does not include the many suicides which are not usually publicly available. The actual yearly numbers are over 100,000 total gunshot injuries of which about 33,000 have ended in death. It’s hard to keep track of all of the incidents given the amazingly large number of them.

We must be better than this. Join us in 2016 to make our communities safer from devastating gun violence. There are many organizations working on this issue. Find one in your area or that interests you and add your voice to those demanding a change to the conversation and a change to our laws. You can be part of the solution to our nation’s public health and safety epidemic. It’s past time for change.

 

UPDATE:

The first reported case of someone struck by a stray bullet in celebratory gunfire has been reported. A Las Vegas area teen was struck by a bullet early this morning and was hospitalized.