7 years after Sandy Hook

Again, we are at that date again. We are remembering the 26 innocent victims of that awful day in 2012.

My Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter held a vigil yesterday to honor those 26 lives and to highlight the effect gun violence has on all of us. Gun violence takes the form of suicides, homicides, mass shootings and “accidental shootings” along with actions taken by law enforcement. We have had so many mass shootings that we are all suffering from PTSD.

The headline of the hard copy of the Duluth News Tribune is this: “We are children, dying before we live.” That was a quote from a Duluth student who experienced a real lockdown last April of all Duluth schools when a man threatened to shoot up a school and was found in one of the local high schools. The student noted that it’s been 8 months and 8 days since her lease on life was extended because she thought she was going to die that day:

Karin Berdahl, now a student at Drake University in Iowa, noted that it had been eight months and eight days since she was in the orchestra room at Duluth East High School “cradling myself and my friend, shaking with terror” after an alert was given about a man with a gun in the school.

She was born two years after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., Berdahl said, and was 11 when the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

“I have never lived in a time where gun violence isn’t prevalent,” she said. “I have never not lived with that fear. Restrictions can be set in place. Laws can be passed. I was lucky that day; many are not. We are children, dying before we live.”

And this, dear readers is the American tragedy of gun violence. The Executive Director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs spoke about the trainings he does in Australia for the coordinated community response to domestic abuse known as the Duluth Model. In Australia, there is domestic abuse as there is everywhere in the world. But women are not being killed by their abusers in regular incidents as we hear and read about every day in our own country.

The Chief of Police spoke about Extreme Risk Protection Orders and why they would save lives:

This year, Tusken said, he consulted with St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman when it became known to police that a man with a permit to carry was mentally unstable. Without a red flag law in place, there was nothing police could do to protect the man from himself or o

A parent spoke and teared up about having to think about her sons being victims of a school shooting and she chose not to think about every day as she sne them off to school in the morning.A teacher and President of the Duluth Federation of Teachers ( a co-sponsor of the event) spoke about how teachers’ jobs had changed after all of the school shootings because now they have to think about an active shooter in their building and classroom and go through lock-down drills that traumatize kids and educators alike.

A gun owner spoke about how the NRA is fear mongering scaring people into thinking they must have their guns for self protection. He said that it isn’t gun safety reform that threatens their rights but rather it is gun violence itself. And further, no legal gun owners’ rights will be affected if common sense gun legislation measures are passed. They are lying.

The President of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP spoke about and remembered his brother and sister, both victims of shootings. A leader from the native American community spoke about how gun violence has affected his members. I read a statement from a transgender leader from our community who could not attend but spoke about how much guns and gun violence affect their community- both homicides and suicides. A veteran remembered the many veterans who die daily from gun suicides.

Gun violence affects us all. So many people are suffering from the after effects of shootings that have torn their families apart. The last speaker was a local woman whose brother was shot and killed last December- almost one year ago now. From the article:

For Wendy Waha, that person was Kevin John Weiss, killed in a shooting a year and three days earlier outside a Gary-New Duluth residence.

“Our innocence has been shattered, and life feels a lot less safe and a lot more violent,” Waha said. “We now think about things like guns, and that such a weapon doesn’t allow for second chances, or grace, or restorative ends to conflict.”

Waha spoke calmly and forcefully for nearly five minutes. But when it came time to say her brother’s name before ringing the bell, she faltered. After tearfully reciting his name, she added, “I would ask everyone here to please take action to do something that helps put common (sense) gun laws into place in order to end this insanity.”

Yes. Our innocence has been shattered. It is never the same. For the parents of the children shot 7 years ago today at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, they are now coming to grips with the idea that their children have been dead as long as they were alive. I read an article about the family of Noah Pozner, one of the children killed, as they deal with the ugly and offensive hoaxers who claim that Sandy Hook never happened and they have attacked these families and made their lives miserable. Their grief should have been enough. But this is so over the top, there are hardly words:

A month before what would have been his son Noah’s 13th birthday, Lenny Pozner told a jury about the last time he saw him, when he dropped him off at school on Dec. 14, 2012.

“It was cold, but he jumped out not wearing his jacket, and he had one arm in one sleeve and his backpack on the other arm, and he was kind of juggling both and walking into the school that way,” Mr. Pozner told a Wisconsin jury in October. “And that’s — that’s the last visual that I have of Noah.” (…) “We had a private viewing where we opened the coffin, and I got a chance to say one last goodbye to Noah,” Mr. Pozner said, as some jurors wept. “I remember saying goodbye to him and kissing him on his forehead,” which because the child had been shot in the face, “was the only part of him that was not covered.”

Do our leaders get this? Noah’s forehead was all that was left of his face. Dying by bullets from a gun is gruesome. The Duluth Police Chief spoke about how officers and first responders cannot unsee what they see when at the scene of a shooting. And the health care community also suffers from PTSD and the nightmare of treating gunshot injuries and those who die from their injuries. A retired nurse whose father took his life by firearm when she was a young woman, spoke about how it is for those who treat gunshot victims:

We tend to the living.

Injuries include paralysis, chronic pain, Loss of limbs, Need for long term ventilators and feeding tubes  PTSD, and the latest concern is lead poisoning since often bullet fragments are unable to be removed. The most memorable patient I have cared for literally was left without a face.

Think of this with the Las Vegas shooting: 58 dead, but 620 sustained injuries, many who will suffer for a lifetime. A handgun wound usually requires one surgery, but an AR15 averages 3-10 surgeries.

Gun violence is insidious. It is violent. It shatters families and communities and leaves behind it a wake of grief and PTSD. It affects us all.

Let us remember the 26 who died one year ago today. Please watch this YouTube video. It is emotional and powerful.

Twelve more

It’s happened again. News programs were interrupted with news of a mass workplace shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Sigh.

Tears. Weeping.

Grief.

Exhaustion.

Devastation.

Cries for doing something.

Statements from gun violence prevention groups and elected leaders who care about lives of innocent people taken in a matter of second.

Brady.

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Statements about the incident- a gunfight. A silencer used. People couldn’t tell how close the shooter was thanks to the silencer. The NRA and its’ lapdog politicians floated a bill to make silencers easier to obtain. But then the Las Vegas shooting happened. And now this.

Extended magazines. More weapons found at the shooter’s home.

Why do we allow extended magazines again? For what are they useful other than shooting as many people as possible in a very short time?

Workplace shootings are becoming more common. What should businesses do? Read this:

There were 1553 firearm workplace homicides during the study period. Robbery crime trended downward from 2011 to 2015. In contrast, non-robbery crimes constituted almost 50% of the homicides and trended upward in recent years. Customers and co-workers were the most frequent perpetrators of non-robbery crimes, most after an argument. While customers and co-workers who commit these crimes were often armed at the time of the argument, some were not and retrieved a firearm from an unspecified location before committing a homicide. Thus, immediate and ready firearm access was commonly observed in argumentative workplace deaths.
Conclusions
Limiting firearm access in the workplace is a possible measure for preventing deadly workplace violence and should be considered as part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing this reemerging public health concern.

Where is common sense?

As the shooting was happening, our local Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter, together with Moms Demand Action and the Duluth Federation of Teachers was holding a Wear Orange kick-off for June as gun violence prevention awareness month.

Speakers were amazing. Two students stepped to the microphone to talk about how it is for students in these days of mass school shootings. A 7th grade girl read a poem she had written after the Parkland shooting. A high school junior spoke of student lockdowns and how frightening they are. He asked where the elected leaders were and cited the large contribution given by the NRA to our newly elected Republican Congressman who voted against the House passed background check and Charleston loophole bills.

Powerful statements from our kids. And adults have failed them.

The Mayor read a proclamation making June 7th gun violence prevention awareness day in Duluth. The city of Duluth posted this on their Facebook page and what were the comments by the insensitive gun rights extremists? She’s taking away guns and rights.

Be quiet. Stop it. No one’s guns will be taken away. Stop trying to scare and intimidate. We are not listening any more. They are a very distinct minority.

The School Superintendent spoke of a near tragedy in one of the Duluth schools when a credible threat occurred and a man was arrested inside of the school. Authorities found guns in his car in the school parking lot.

Shame on those who refuse to move- who refuse to acknowledge our public health epidemic because they are beholden to a failed and corrupt gun rights organization. They are listening to an ever decreasing minority of gun rights extremists.

Former Republican Congressman David Jolly got it right. Our gun laws are broken. If we care about innocent lives and all lives, we will fix our broken system like other democratized countries have done.

President Trump responds to the shooting?

Democratic Presidential candidates are heartsick and furious.

So are we all. The majority of us know that passing stronger gun laws and changing our gun culture will not take away rights to own guns. The insistence that the second amendment means no gun laws allows daily carnage.

A writer for CNN says that we have a cult of guns in America. He is so right:

None of this will stop unless the cult of guns is curbed.
This won’t be easy; the cult has a lot of money behind it. The money pours in from the “devout”: small-time contributions to the NRA that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. This money is used, in our skewed version of democracy, to influence politicians, who are only too happy to be bought.
Our Congress is swamped with men and women, our so-called representatives, who do not represent the majority view, which is that guns must be curtailed.

According to Gun Violence Archive this is the 150th mass shooting of the year. That happened before half of 2019 is over. We still have 7 months for the bodies to add up.

This is NOT NORMAL.

After posting this post I found another post by Shaun King who wrote about how we handle mass shootings in America:

That’s the game we play. To get through dinner, to get through a movie or a game, to get through quality time with our loved ones, we must temporarily suspend our knowledge that people are being slaughtered all around us. We speak of the Wild Wild West as some nostalgic era of the past, but we’re living it. The United States is the only nation in the world that has more guns than people. And it shows. Americans are shooting and killing themselves and killing others with guns at a pace that should be treated as a dire National Emergency. If we just enacted a fraction of the basic standards and norms held by the rest of the world, our nation would be so much safer.

Who have we become as a nation, as people with moral compasses, as people of compassion for others, as people who espouse non-violence?

Who do we want to be? Is this it? Reading names of victims after every mass shooting? Posting photos of those who lost their lives yesterday in “everyday shootings”?

I think not. We are better than this.

At this morning’s press conference in Virginia Beach, the names and photos of the victims were released by the City Manager of the city who said their names in with an emotional voice:

“They leave a void that will never be filled,” Hansen said. 

Too many voids.

Wear Orange on June 7th for gun violence prevention awareness. Wear it for the victims. Wear it for Hadiye Pendleton whose family started the observance of the day. Do your part. Get activated, Make noise and most of all, hold elected officials accountable for their inaction.

Guns vs. lawn mowers

Illustration of lawn mower man smiling standing with arms folded facing front done in cartoon style on isolated white background.

There has been an interesting back and forth on the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota Facebook page about the gun giveaway promotion by a local Ford/Chrysler dealer. I wrote about this in a previous post. The dealer is now responding to the action taken by a group of people who felt the promotion was the wrong message to send to the public and consumers. It was not meant for any other purpose than that. What happened was more than a few phone calls to the dealer and to the Ford Motor company about this particular business policy. The dealer made claims about this being about the second amendment but the last time I checked there was nothing about a right to give guns away in a business deal. He also said callers were mean. I wonder if he means that the callers were insistent and emphatic in their opposition to the business deal. If we want to talk about mean, we can talk about the rude and offensive comments made by those who agreed with this business deal on the Facebook page. Many were deleted and blocked for that reason.

In the business promotion, car buyers had the choice between a lawn mower or one of two types of Ruger pistols. Several news sources have covered this story. This one from the Minneapolis based CBS affiliate WCCO media and also this one from BringMeTheNews.com.

I want to say that I have written several blog posts about guns and lawn mowers on my other blogging site- Here and  here. These were about arguments over lawn mowers. Are lawn mowers dangerous? Apparently fights over them can be. And yes, there are accidents and injuries due to lawn mowers as the owner of the car dealership pointed out as his excuse for why it was OK to give guns away. But as the article above points out:

Accidents are the leading cause of death for kids at just about all ages.

Although the leading causes of these accidental deaths include car accidents,drownings, poisonings, fires, falls and gun accidents, there are many hidden dangers that parents are less aware of that can lead to accidents and tragedies.

Death by lawnmower is rare compared to death by gunshot injuries. 95 deaths in a year compared to 30,000. The gun rights folks often point to other causes of death in their denial that gunshot injuries actually do kill a lot of Americans.

And I would like to include this article about the idea that, as one of the commenters in the story about the car dealer said, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The article, written in 2013 for the Armed With Reason blog debunks this gun lobby myth. It’s a long article but important. But here’s one section I love:

Guns may not kill people, but gun culture does.

6 Academic Responses to “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”

Lawnmowers don’t mow lawns, people do.  But if you want to mow a lot of grass in a very short period of time with very little effort or coordination, you’re going to need a lawnmower.   And if you want to be brutally efficient about it, why not get a John Deere semi-automatic riding lawnmower? The X758 is a popular model that can literally mow down entire fields at the push of a button, and can be picked up without any hassle at your local Walmart.

I’m belaboring the analogy, but the point should be clear:  Guns may not kill people, but people with guns do, and they do so more often and more efficiently than people without guns.  People do not behave in a vacuum. They are influenced by their environment, and when that environment is occupied by guns, people behave aggressively and impulsively.  Even the NRA is unable to follow its own strict logic behind “guns don’t kill people.” In searching for a scapegoat, Wayne LaPierre often accuses media, video games, Obama’s budget, and anything else he can find that isn’t a gun. The point being these fruitless attempts to shift blame are an implicit acknowledgement that we are influenced by our surrounding environment, an environment that includes guns.

So following this analogy, let’s talk about the clever language that has been used by the corporate gun lobby and their minions for many decades to deflect any talk about common sense gun laws. Lawn mowers don’t mow lawns, people do. Drills don’t screw screws into boards, people do. Saws don’t cut wood, people do. Hammers don’t pound in nails, people do. Vacuum cleaners don’t clean rugs, people do. Mops don’t clean floors, people do. You get the idea. How have these folks gotten away with their nonsense for so long? They make no sense but our leaders have listened to these folks and their myths to the detriment of public health and safety in our county.

If you read further into the article you can see why guns DO ACTUALLY KILL PEOPLE. One example given early on is the accidental gun deaths of and by children. Surely those children did not intend to shoot anyone. The gun was discharged by mistake. Adults make the same mistakes. Take this recent one for example where an Alabama man “accidentally” shot his pregnant girlfriend in the face:

The Gadsden Times reportsthat deputies were called to the couple’s home on Whites Chapel Road around 9 p.m. Thursday after the unidentified man called 911 and said he’d accidentally shot his girlfriend. When deputies arrived, they found the man trying to put pressure on the woman’s wound.

There’s just got to be more to this story. And in most of these incidents the gun owners get away with what they have done. Why? They were reckless and irresponsible with their guns. This is unacceptable. Often law enforcement is afraid to charge someone because…rights. Never mind the rights of the rest of us to be safe from idiots like this guy.

The other gun lobby myth is that more guns will make us safer. That has definitely not been the case. We are far less safe than most other democratized, civilized countries not at war because of our 300 million guns. Just ask the pregnant woman who got shot in the face if she feels safer now.

But I digress. Back to the above story. Did the gun shoot the pregnant woman? Did the man shoot her? Did the man with the gun shoot her? Would this have happened if the man had not had that gun in his hand?

I don’t have enough space here to list the many accidental shootings by children that have come to my attention just over the past few days but I can assure you, guns did not make those children safer. But I’ll post about just this one where a Michigan boy with developmental disabilities got his grandfather’s gun safe key and “accidentally” shot and killed a woman sleeping in the other room.  Why do these keep happening? And they do. More from the article:

According to his grandfather the boy “got up before anybody this morning at 5:30 a.m. He said he was in my pocket trying to get change and he found the gun safe key. It’s always locked up, and I always have the key on me.”

The grandfather said that when the boy tried to unload the shotgun he unintentionally dischargedthe gun.  The pellets went through a nearby closet wall and struck a 28-year-old woman who was sleeping in the living room.

The grandfather said “we turned the light on and we could see all the blood. It was only minutes. She was still breathing, but by the time the police got here, she’d passed away.”

The boy is staying with a family member.  The grandfather said his grandson is an apprentice hunter and has used guns before.  He said the boy “handled guns very safely and wouldn’t touch a gun unless he was told it was okay to pick it up.” He added that the boy “doesn’t realize what he’s done.”

The thing is, kids pick up guns no matter what you tell them. I have written about that many times before on this blog. I’m sorry but this does not sound like a responsible gun owner to me. Twelve year old children without developmental problems are barely old enough to handle the responsibility of guns. This man’s judgement was clearly impaired and now someone is dead. Avoidable and insane but part of our American gun culture and another American tragedy.

I would like to add this one for a particular reason. A 2 year old Virginia boy shot himself with a gun he found in his parents’ top dresser drawer. Now some in the gun lobby will try to deny this could happen and that little kids just won’t find those guns hidden away in dresser drawers. But this ABC 20/20 show proved that this is exactly what can and does happen. These are all avoidable and senseless shootings, not that any make sense.

open carry thugs
From Moms Demand Action Facebook page

Speaking of not making any sense, there’s the open carry folks who are out and about intimidating their neighbors. I do love this photo and article about the Indianapolis folks who think they are making a point by walking around in a residential neighborhood on Memorial Day week-end to show their “patriotism”. A photo of this classy group was posted on the Moms Demand Action Facebook page because, as it happens, the founder of that organization lives nearby to where they carried their assault weapons. Check out it:

“There’s not a thing we can do about it,” ZPD Chief Robert Knox said. “They’re exercising their second amendment right to bear arms and their first amendment right to peaceably get together and walk down the street like anybody else.”

“…like anybody else”? NO. Wrong. These folks are not like everybody else. The second amendment does not give people the right to do whatever the heck they want to do with their guns. This is insane and reflective of the American gun culture. Here’s one more article about this sleazy group of gun extremists. There are not too many words for this kind of tactic. All I know is that we don’t need people openly carrying loaded guns near the home of gun violence prevention advocates as a lark and clearly to intimidate people who work to prevent gun violence. It is not amusing. It is not funny. It has nothing to do with gun rights or the second amendment. It has nothing to do with a civil society. This is simply not OK.

And speaking of the insane gun culture, we should take a look at what else is insane with the stupid and dangerous gun culture pushed by the corporate gun lobby. Can anyone target practice close to homes just because of the second amendment? I say no. In Massachusetts (a reader corrected my posting that this was a California case)  someone thought he could. Let’s take a look:

“It was a piece of paper hanging between two trees with nothing behind it,” he said.

The bullet traveled 1,500 feet from a nearby farm, through a few thinly wooded acres, across a pair of frequently used railroad tracks, through the Costa home’s siding, exterior wall, bathroom wall and closet, before it lodged in the first floor hallway plaster.

Police responded to the scene and Costa’s home was evacuated on Jan. 14. The round pierced the wall about seven feet from his daughter’s head as she sat on a kitchen stool studying World War I.

Here’s the response from the pro gun side:

Gun rights activists have labeled the pending bylaw “anti-freedom” and “anti-Second Amendment” in an online campaign.

“We’re always concerned when we see things like this,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Northborough-based Gun Owners Action League (GOAL).

GOAL has sounded the alarm, urging its local members to attend a May 19 public hearing on the bylaw and reminding them to vote on June 1.

“It seems to be a pattern across the state,” Wallace said. “This has sprung up in a bunch of different towns, and it seems like an organized attempt to make things tougher on gun owners in the state.”

Initially, Berkley police said they could not press charges in the January incident at the Costa home, despite successfully tracking the round to a group of target-shooters on a nearby farm.

There is no pattern. This is all made up anger and total hypocrisy. This kind of intimidation should not be acceptable anywhere. The alarm sounded should come from the side of keeping people safe from stray bullets in neighborhoods. A few inches different and the target shooting gun owner would be singing a different tune and his pals in the pro gun lobby would be taking a seat quietly with the only alarm bells ringing at the funeral of a little girl.

And just one more, I promise. Speaking of the hypocrisy of the gun lobby saying that guns make us safer, check out this particularly stupid and dangerous incident:

Martinez’s older brother, Tom Cline, said Martinez died in the most senseless way.

Around 9:45 p.m. Friday, “Miguel was fooling around with his buddies. They were in possession of a gun and a bulletproof vest,” Cline said Saturday.

Cline said friends encouraged his brother to put on the vest. The three friends with Martinez assured him that he would not be hurt, Cline said.

According to the sheriff’s department, Lambert fired the gun.

“The kid had shot my brother. The bullet penetrated the top of his vest,” said Cline. “My brother was hit. My brother said he couldn’t breathe.”

According to Cline, one person ran for help. Two men carried Martinez up the bike path to meet deputies, but Martinez died.

“My brother did not deserve this death,” Cline said. “I want everybody to know Miguel Henry Martinez was a good boy.”

Cline said he believes his brother might have survived the shooting if someone called for help sooner. He said he doesn’t know where the bulletproof vest or gun came from.

Big OOPS. This is the American gun culture where things like this happen every day. It’s also the American tragedy.

Really, you just can’t make this stuff up. These folks may be “law abiding” because they passed background checks and because open carry and target shooting in neighborhoods is stupidly allowed by our spineless legislatures. These incidents are all examples of the “mad men” culture to which Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign referred in my recent post. Once we thought some dangerous and unsafe behaviors were OK but we found out differently. It’s just a matter of time before so many of these incidents happen that it will be impossible to avoid the obvious solution- changing the conversation about our gun culture and passing stronger gun laws that will lead to improved public health and safety.

It is past time for the insanity to stop. We are better than this. Let’s get to work.