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.
On Thursday of this week, my local chapter held a vigil on the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Since we had a dozen co-sponsors who helped us spread the word about the vigil, attendance was higher than expected. Participants sat in the sanctuary of a local church listening to beautiful piano music played by a friend as slides with the faces of the 20 children and 6 adults massacred 5 years ago looped in front of them. Earlier this fall, we held another vigil for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, equally well attended and a solemn reminder that real people lose their lives every day to gunshot injuries. At that vigil, we said the names of each victim and rang the bell 58 times. It was moving to say the least.
A local reporter asked me in an interview before the vigil why we would hold a vigil for mass shooting victims when they happened so far away. My response? I don’t suppose the families of those small children expected that it would happen to them or in their town. I don’t think the residents of Sutherland, Texas imagined that it could have happened in their town. I never imagined that gun violence would affect my family.
The reason I mention that vigil is that only 2 months ago, we held a vigil for the victims of the worst mass shooting in our country. And then the church shooting in Sutherland, Texas happened in November taking the lives of another 26. There were slides with photos of those victims as well as their names on the screen as well.
It was sobering, moving and powerful. After remarks from the pastor of the church urging peace and reminding us that, for Christians, this is the season of lighting advent candles to remind us of the reason we celebrate Christmas. But there were people of all faiths in the sanctuary including the local Rabbi, the Quaker community and those who don’t practice with any faith group.
As the participants lined up to light candles in memory of the victims of all gun violence and in particular the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, the photos continued looping. It was seeing those happy faces of those 20 first graders that caused the tears and emotion as the candles were lit. Many of us also lit a candle for our own personal loss of a loved one and there were a number of victims in the sanctuary who cried over their own loss as well as the losses felt by way too many Americans.
As the vigil came to a close, we asked to honor the victims with action. That action included signing over 300 postcards that were mailed to our Congressional delegation urging them to support bills that would expand Brady background checks to all gun sales- something that makes so much common sense that 90-95% of Americans agree.
We have had enough. That was the overwhelming sentiment at our vigil and vigils all over the country to mark this particular anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting- the one we thought was even too much for our lapdog politicians.
This sad fact should make us wonder what in the world is wrong with us. These shootings just don’t happen anywhere else in the world in such large numbers or at all, actually.
At the same time as that 51% number revealed the insanity about our nation’s gun culture, people also said this ( from the linked article above):
About 61 per cent said the country’s gun laws should be tougher, while 27 per cent would rather see them remain the same, and 11 per cent want them to be less strict. That’s similar to the results of an Associated Press poll in July 2016.
What is happening in our country is just not normal. Nor is it inevitable. It is preventable. It is avoidable. It is lunacy itself.
The ripple effect of gun violence spreads far and wide.
It is an American tragedy.
Something needs to change. We will not be held hostage by the corporate gun lobby.
As two of my friends who attended our vigil said, they both have granddaughters in first grade. Seeing those smiling faces hit home for them about how it would be if one of their own was massacred so violently and suddenly by a crazed person with a gun.
The enormity of our gun violence epidemic is very personal.
Just because @realDonaldTrump was elected to be our next President doesn’t mean the gun violence prevention groups are going away. In fact, they will be louder than ever. They must be because lives depend on it.
Gun violence will not stop. Mass shootings will continue. Our families and communities will not be safe from gun violence until we do the right thing.
26 children and educators are shot and Congress does nothing.
33,000 Americans will die every year unless Congress does the right thing.
No more silence.
Today is the 4th anniversary of what most can agree was the worst mass shooting in our country though it took fewer lives than some of the other mass shootings. You know what I’m talking about.
Sandy Hook, December 14, 2012.
20 first graders brutally shot to death and 6 educators who tried to protect them.
We should not have to protect our school children from gun massacres. America is unique in that we have more mass shootings than any other democratized country not at war. And when a mass shooting happens other countries with common sense do something to at least try to stop the next one. And in most cases, it has worked.
Of course. That is because common sense informs most of us. The fact that our Congress could not even pass a simple law to require background checks on all gun sales several months after the Sandy Hook shooting is a shameful and hideous black mark in our history.
So we are here again- mourning, lighting candles, speaking, singing, ringing bells, marching, writing emails and letters and making phone calls. Making noise.
There will be events all over the country today. You can check it out here.Newtown Action Alliance was formed after the Sandy Hook shooting and invites victims from all over the country to Washington D.C. for the national vigil. It is a sober and reflective day with tears and hugs. It is a remembrance of all victims of gun violence. It is a reminder that our leaders have not done the right thing.
It has been 4 years and yet our leaders have not done the right thing.
My local chapter viewed the award winning film, “Newtown” on Sunday. It was a powerful testament to the resilience and resolve of the survivors of that shooting. Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. Some choose to do so in silence. Some have become activists. None will ever be the same. And again, we see the ripple effect of gun violence in the Newtown community. Every one of our elected leaders should be required to view the film.
We rang the bell 26 times. We discussed what we will do next and why we haven’t done the right thing yet. The attendees were frustrated and puzzled. They want action. They want change. They want our leaders to do the right thing.
Today we will hold a candlelight vigil at a local church.
The sad thing is, that even if those leaders who are lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby did view the film, ring a bell, light a candle or attend a vigil, it may not crack through their refusal to buck the gun lobby to do the right thing. They know the right thing. Will they do the right thing?
“In the wake of this unthinkable tragedy, America demanded action from Congress. And when Congress failed to act, Americans took matters into their own hands. With a successful vote in Nevada this fall, seven states have expanded Brady background checks to all gun sales since the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary. Today, half of all Americans live in states where Brady background checks are ensuring felons, domestic abusers, and dangerously mentally ill people can’t buy guns. We’ll continue this state-by-state march until Congress steps up and finishes the job for all Americans.
“Some in the gun lobby’s world might see Newtown’s tragedy, and others since, to be the unavoidable consequences of ‘doing business’ today. We don’t accept that. The Brady Campaign and an overwhelming majority of the American people have a different vision, and we’re not giving up. Buoyed by four years of inspired progress, we fight on to make this the better, safer nation that the children and educators we honor today deserved.”
Every April, some families have to stop what they are doing and remember an awful anniversary. The country also remembers certain April dates as those of mass shootings and violent events that we can’t forget:
April 13- Thomas Jefferson’s birthday
April 15- Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shooting of one of the perpetrators and eventual capture and shooting of the other
April 16- Virginia Tech shooting
April 19- Oklahoma City bombing by gun rights extremist
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
This of course refers to the spring weather which has been particularly cruel in Minnesota this year. We are one day wearing winter coats and boots and shoveling and the next sitting outside in short sleeves and enjoying the spring sun.
And what does Thomas Jefferson’s birthday have to do with any of this? Let’s take a look at this article that dispels the myths associated with some of his quotes that are used by gun extremists and far right political extremists:
Saul Cornell, a professor at Fordham University, said some quotations may need context, especially those from the “losing side” of debates. He added that he believes both sides of the gun conversation tend to oversimplify the Founding Fathers’ historical intent.
“Without being too professorial about it,” he said, “depending on what theory of the Constitution we use, you can get very different interpretations of the Second Amendment.”
Cornell, who is the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at the school, said the Constitution incorporates lessons learned while the nation was under the Articles of Confederation. He said the turmoil of Shays’ Rebellion stirred up fears of mob rule among many leaders.
He also compared the militias of early America to a form of taxation, saying that citizens had what Jefferson referred to as a “right and duty” to be armed. That is, they were required to buy weapons in addition to being allowed to possess them. Militia membership was often compulsory, Cornell said.
He questions whether the Founding Fathers would have welcomed the idea of people taking up arms against their newly hatched constitutional government instead of using governmental procedure to settle differences, which sometimes is referred to as the “ballots vs. bullets” debate.
Those who hold the belief that the Second Amendment gives them an individual right to take violent action against our government should it lapse into “tyranny” have isolated Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” quote in order to justify a radical ideology. The truth is that Jefferson’s views on private rebellion were far more thoughtful and nuanced. While scholars like Saul Cornell have acknowledged that Jefferson affirmed an individual right to keep arms for private purposes, he never described disorganized or spontaneous insurrection as a right. Jefferson instead envisioned“a universally armed citizenry organized into well-regulated militia units based on a system of ‘ward republics’” as a deterrent against “usurpers” and a key guarantor of a healthy republic.
In today’s hyperbolic and sometimes even violence-prone political environment it is important to understand that armed Americans ready to fight against their own government or for a particular candidate is not a democracy. We use ballots- not bullets- and hopefully common sense, to change our leaders. Our Founding Fathers wanted it that way. I doubt that they envisioned armed Americans ready to fight their own government or use their guns to intimidate and bully other Americans.
Some wonder if April has some significance when it comes to violence. This article explores that idea and comes to the conclusion that in America, at least, mass shootings occur in any and every month and we know that shootings happen every day of every month to the tune of 90 a day.
For my family August was a cruel month. For others it was December when 20 first graders and 6 educators were shot dead by a young angry mentally disturbed man who should not have had access to guns.
Gun violence is cruel and devastating. In American it is particularly and uniquely so.It doesn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t be thinking about certain months or certain dates in light of violent events that took place then. Too many families hate the anniversaries of the shooting deaths of their loved ones or friends.
April is a busy month for activists whose mission it is to call attention to our American public health epidemic and ask our leaders to do something about it. The month starts out with April Fools’ Day. We will not be fooled by the false and deceptive rhetoric of the corporate gun lobby. And we can’t let our elected leaders be fooled either. It is no joke to have a loved one’s life cut short by a bullet. And that is why we are acting today, this month and every month.
Some people hate Hillary Clinton. They hate her with a fervor that is unreasonable and over the top. Often there is no reasoning with these folks, many of them Bernie Sanders supporters. I just can’t figure out that kind of hatred. I don’t hate Bernie Sanders. I don’t hate Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump. I vehemently disagree with their policies and their tactics. And I am actually fearful for our country if Donald Trump were to be elected our President. It is beyond my capability to comprehend that this could happen.
I happen to support Hillary Clinton. Her positions fall into line with mine, for the most part. Especially her views about guns and gun violence. There are a few things on which I will disagree with her. No politician is pure. They disappoint us because we want them to represent everything we believe. We want to trust them. And then reality happens. Debate happens. Compromise happens. And soon enough, we are not happy.
Wayne LaPierre and the gun rights extremists have had Obama derangement syndromesince the day he was elected ( or before). Claims of gun confiscation and hysteria over gun rights have been flung around for 8 years. Interestingly, guns have not been confiscated nor have rights been taken from anyone but those who should not have guns.
I wrote in my last post about some people who should not have guns- domestic abusers. There are too many deaths of American (mostly) women every day because an angry, deranged, suicidal, depressed, drunk or otherwise spouse, partner, ex spouse, ex partner, sibling or other family member had access to a gun. Tragedies are happening all around us. And we are turning our heads. Actually most people feel helpless to do anything until we educate them and they realize that guns in the home are more dangerous for homicide, suicide and accidental shootings than for self defense. This new article from The Trace confirms this:
A recent study published in The Journal of Preventive Medicine offers new support for the argument that owning a gun does not make you safer. The study, led by David Hemenway, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, examines data from the National Crime Victimization Survey — an annual survey of 90,000 households — and shows not only that so-called “defensive gun use” (DGU) rarely protects a person from harm, but also that such incidents are much more rare than gun advocates claim.
A 2014 Gallup poll suggests that Americans increasingly perceive owning firearms as an effective means of self-defense — having a gun makes one less likely to become a victim of a crime. But as Hemenway’s study demonstrates, this belief is not supported by crime statistics. Contrary to what many gun advocates argue, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data reveals that having a gun provides no statistically significant benefit to a would-be victim during a criminal confrontation.
Perception is not reality. Facts matter as it turns out and can save lives. More from the article:
In his new NCVS study, Hemenway also found that defensive gun use is exceedingly infrequent. While smaller private surveys estimated that there are up to 2.5 million DGUs on an annual basis, the NCVS data indicates that victims used guns defensively in less than 1 percent of attempted or completed crimes, with an annual total of less than 70,000. (…)
The only thing we can know for sure is what we have empirical data on: Namely, that there is a reliable floor for defensive gun use estimates at around 1,600 a year. In addition, according to the most recent data on defensive gun use, we have reliable evidence showing that owning a firearm does not give individuals any significant advantage in a criminal confrontation, and they are no less likely to lose property or be injured by using a gun in self defense.
Everyone in the community is struggling to explain what would cause the 17-year-old boy, David Cunningham to do this. His father, Tom Cunningham, didn’t want to speak on camera. But he gave us some clues about his son’s growing despondence.
Tom Cunningham is trying desperately to cope with the horrifying scene. Returning from town, he saw the family’s German shepherd dead on the back step. Inside lay the bodies of his two teenage children.
“No, we have no motive at this point,” Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze said.
Two teens are dead. A 17 year old boy was despondent. He had access to a gun. More investigation will reveal what kind of gun it was and where it came from. And now another family and community are devastated. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill. And kill they do. Yes, a gun by itself doesn’t kill unless there is some sort of discharge of a gun that ends up killing some by accident like this one where an Iowa Veteran dropped a gun that discharged and the bullet killed him. This is only one of many like this. People with guns kill many people and themselves every day in our country. They are not killing people very often with knives, hammers, clubs, chairs, or other heavy items. It’s the guns.
So what does any of this have to do with Hillary derangement syndrome? Mr. Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the NRA is at it again. He delivered yet another speech at this year’s CPAC conference making old, tired and false claims about Hillary Clinton coming for your guns. Let’s take a look at what he said:
The trigger-happy head of the National Rifle Association warned women Thursday that they face a dangerous future should Hillary Clinton wind up in the White House.
“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech Thursday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “If President Obama, Hillary Clinton or anyone else denies you that right, they don’t really care about you at all.”
LaPierre, speaking at a conference hall where weapons were banned, took aim at Clinton, telling the Democratic front-runner to “bring it on” in the fight over gun control.
“Mrs. Clinton, if you want to come after the NRA, and if you want to fight over the God-given rights of America’s 100 million gun owners, if you want to turn this election into a bare-knuckled brawl for the survival of our constitutional freedoms, bring it on,” LaPierre said. “We aren’t going anywhere, and we aren’t hard to find.”
Is this a challenge? And God-given? Find me a place in the Bible or other religious writings about guns being given to people by God. This is stupid and dangerous rhetoric and also ludicrous. LaPierre just can’t fathom that people who want to pass laws to prevent shootings aren’t coming for his guns. American women should be very afraid when Wayne LaPierre ramps up fear and paranoia as he does when he speaks.
Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said: “It’s the same populist, fear-mongering speech. It’s amazing to me that Wayne LaPierre has been making the same speech for 25 years. We have a complex problem of gun violence in America and the only come to the table with: ‘We need more freedom.’ It sounds more hollow every time he says it.”
More reaction from his speech addresses the reality of gun violence in American and the total obstruction of the gun lobby to do anything real about it:
LaPierre’s remarks were condemned by the Newtown Action Alliance, a gun control pressure group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings. It’s chairperson, Po Murray, said: “Wayne LaPierre supported universal background checks until the NRA decided to pursue an extreme agenda of arming anyone, anywhere and everywhere. He will say and do anything to elect a president who will promote the gun lobby’s efforts to put guns everywhere in a greedy pursuit of corporate profits for the gun industry. His job is to fire up the NRA supporters with fear, lies and rhetoric.
“Currently, Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate who stands with the families and communities impacted by gun violence. She is pushing for sensible gun laws. Justice Antonin Scalia stated, ‘Like most rights, the right secured by the second amendment is not unlimited …’ and Connecticut passed the second strongest gun laws after the Sandy Hook tragedy.”
Murray added: “Meanwhile, the NRA is aggressively pursuing an agenda to put guns on campuses and allowing anyone to carry guns without permits. In an era of increased mass shootings, voters have a clear choice this November. We choose Hillary Clinton.”
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, rather than armed security guards protecting children from a shooter, which has not happened once since that shooting, this has happened instead:
But never mind. LaPierre said this about children and school shootings:
Recalling the shooting of 20 young children and six of their adult carers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, LaPierre said the NRA was unfairly attacked and blamed. “I simply and honestly proposed that our schools, our children, should be protected at least as much as our jewellery stores or banks or stadiums, and maybe the Oscars in Hollywood the other night. The national news media savaged me. What parent wouldn’t feel safer dropping their kids off at school with a police car parked out front? (…) He went on: “As a result, millions of our children go to school today, no longer the sitting ducks of the worst and most dangerous of all lies – gun-free zones. The news media, protected by their own armed security, will never admit it, but today, millions of children are safer for one reason: the NRA. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the simple truth that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The politicians and the media be damned!”
This past week gun violence prevention groups, the religious community and others attracted thousands of supporters in vigils, marches, bell ringings, protests and other activities. The gun violence prevention community is strong and getting stronger. Newtown Action Alliance and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence have for 3 years now organized people around the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the nation’s most heinous school shooting. We all know about it, right?
And yet, in spite of all of this and in spite of overwhelming public support to change our gun laws, our Congress has turned their backs on the American people for years. That is going to change. We can not be ignored any longer.
In my city of Duluth we held a bell ringing to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and the many many others of mass shootings in 2015 and “every day ” shootings. 70 attended on a cold, blustery day to support our efforts. Local clergy, law enforcement, community activists and elected leaders joined us to ring our bell in memory of lost loved ones. I got a note after the event from one of the police officers who rang the bell. Here is what he said:
I just wanted to say thank you for organizing and asking us to be part of today’s bell ringing. My heart was broken as I listened to people tell of all the losses due to gun violence. Thanks to both of you for being strong and sharing with us. A few years back I was involved in an incident where a violent suspect we were trying to arrest broke into a house and shot a 21 year old girl as he was trying to evade us. The girl survived, I often think of her and wonder how she is doing, she experienced something many of us only see when we watch a horror movie. I know she has had huge struggles at times. I thought of her today during the ringing.
Thanks again for working so hard on this, you are so appreciated.
I know that some of my readers are gun rights enthusiasts and don’t appreciate anything I do. So be it. But the fact is, the nation wants change. The national gun violence prevention events started with a vigil at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill to which many victims of gun violence were invited to speak. Candles were lit. Tears fell. Victims gathered together for support, ready to go out into the country to change things.
We are acting and we will honor the victims with our actions. The gun lobby is acting in its’ own self interest and making profits while doing it. There is no common sense to any of this.
The Center for American Progress has released a great report with actions that can be taken by the state executives. If Congress fails to act, we will get state executives to act. Whatever it takes is what we will do. It’s all hands on deck. We’ve had enough. We want action. Thoughts and prayers are nice and fine but they don’t get Congress to do anything. It’s an American tragedy that we have turned our backs on the victims of gun violence and have done virtually nothing.
We should have acted after Columbine. But we didn’t. We should have acted after Virginia Tech but we didn’t. We should have acted after the Aurora theater shooting or after the Tucson shooting when one of their own, Representative Gabby Giffords, was shot and seriously injured in a public meeting with constituents. But we didn’t. And we didn’t act after the Umpqua community college shooting, nor the Charleston shooting of 9 innocent black people, nor the Fort Hood shooting or the Navy Yard shooting or the Tamir Rice shooting, or Trayvon Martin, or for goodness sake, the shooting on live TV of 2 young Roanoke, Virginia journalists.
We should be acting every day to keep 89 Americans from being shot in domestic homicides, homicides committed in anger or fear, suicides or children “accidentally” shooting themselves or others with guns they have accessed and shouldn’t have. We have failed to act. We have failed the victims.
How can we keep ignoring this? It’s the question that should be asked at all presidential debates and all candidate debates going forward. Our politicians need to know that if they don’t change, we will change them. They have failed us. They have failed to do their jobs. We’ve had enough and we are ready for action. Let’s get to work.
In my sister’s name and her memory, I will not let this inaction continue. I can’t fail to do something about her senseless and tragic shooting death. I will not let my elected leaders ignore my voice or the voice of the many victims we honored in the past week.