Background checks for all

It’s about time bills are introduced into Congress and my own Minnesota state legislature. In fact, it’s a national tragedy that our elected leaders have not passed bills requiring that every gun sale go through the process of finding out whether the buyer of a legal weapon should own one.

As the sign says, “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a Congress with a spine”. So far Congress has been spineless. Yes, there was a bill written in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting but the NRA backed out at the end leaving not enough votes to get a bill passed after the nation’s most heinous mass shooting.

And mass shooting after mass shooting; domestic shooting after domestic shooting; suicide after suicide with a gun; “unintentional” shootings of toddlers by toddlers; stupid gun mistakes after mistakes; veteran suicide after suicide’ gang shootings after gang shootings and here we are today with gun deaths on the rise.

We are better than this.

On Tuesday I drove to the state Capitol in St. Paul for a welcome back and lobby day. Between the Minnesota Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota along with a group of us from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter, we were well represented. As hundreds gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol and outside of the chambers there were chants, lots of signs, enthusiastic volunteers and a lot of energy. Legislators knew we were there. Post cards were delivered to Representatives, Senators and the Governor asking for support for the bills that will be introduced this week for background checks on all gun sales and an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Almost at the same time, H.R. 8 was introduced in the U.S House on the 8th anniversary of the shooting of then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Let us remember the 6 who were senselessly murdered 8 years ago on January 8th because a young man who should not have had a gun had one anyway.: Christina- Taylor Green; Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman; Phyllis Schneck; Dorothy Morris; Dorwan Stoddard.

All of the national groups were gathered at the U.S. Capitol, as well as supportive Congress members. One of these was Congresswoman Lucy McBath from Georgia. Now there’s a woman with a spine. After her son Jordan Davis was shot and killed for sitting in a car playing loud music while black, Lucy got involved with Everytown for Gun Safety. And now, she is an elected leader with a spine. I am proud to know her and proud that she will actually stand up and do the right thing.

She is not alone. The country is with her. 97% of us want background checks for all gun sales. Why are the other 3% opposed to something that makes so much common sense? Several of them the 3% were at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday filming us, intimidating volunteers and telling their supporters the usual nasty nonsense about our groups. They were heard to say: “They want it all”. What does that mean? What we want are measures that will save lives and will not affect them- if they are law abiding individuals. On the Facebook page of Minnesota Gun Rights, as soon as the videos were posted, the comments started coming in. Such rational comments like- Did they leave their children at home watching videos while they are at the Capitol? Really? Women can’t go out of the house now without the criticism and approval of the gun rights extremists? What year is it again?

Or the best one is that we are paid by that terrible liberal philanthropist George Soros. Seriously. Why are we such a threat to them? They don’t believe that we volunteer our time for this noble and just cause. I mean, how can so many people show up if they aren’t paid? If I had been paid for all of my volunteering over the past 2 decades, I would be a millionaire. Instead, I spend my own money on gas, supplies, donations, tee shirts and other swag, so that I can represent my organizations and advocate for common sense gun laws.

Oh, and then a state legislator actually said this in an article about the proposed laws:

” House Republicans, meanwhile, blasted the proposals. Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said Minnesotans should be concerned that Democrats are trying “to take your freedoms, to take your money, to take your guns and to take your children” by forcing them into state-backed early educational care.”

Really? This is such nonsense, fear and paranoia. Plus it’s “fake news”. It’s a lie. I wonder where he got this stuff? ( Wayne LaPierre? Donald Trump? Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity?)

What we need here is a common understanding of the problem. The problem is that 1 out of 5 guns are sold with no background check. That would be like 1 out of 5 people going into a separate TSA line at the airport with no screening whatsoever. The number was greater until a few years ago when more states passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Brady background checks do save lives but they won’t prevent all gun deaths and injuries. 

There need to be other life saving measures to reduce the number of gun deaths and end gun violence. Extreme Risk Protection Orders will save lives. Waiting periods would save lives. Raising the age for purchase of handguns and assault rifles to 21 would save lives. Restricting the sale of some types of assault type rifles would save lives. So would banning bump stocks. Not allowing so many people to carry guns in public places would save lives. Asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns where your children play will save lives. Safe storage of guns will save lives. Stronger gun trafficking laws will save lives. Public awareness and education about the risk of guns in the home such as End Family Fire will save lives. Research about gun violence will save lives. Allowing law enforcement to share crime date with each other sill save lives. Reminding patients when they go to their health care providers that guns could be a risk to their health will save lives.

Yes, we want it all. We want whatever it takes to save lives. We don’t want to ban guns and take away rights. But let us remember that we are the only civilized democratized country that doesn’t have all of the above and more in the interest of public safety and health.

Let us also remember that background checks are required for a reason in many other areas of our common lives. One needs a background check to work with kids in churches and schools. One needs a background check to adopt a pet. One needs a background check to get a job in certain sectors like public accounting. One needs a background check to be a health care provider. This is for our common protection and safety.

The Brady Campaign has put a good chart together about background checks that will help with our understanding of for what we are asking. Here it is:

The “gun guys” don’t like background checks. They themselves buy guns with background checks when they to to a federally licensed dealer. Why would they object if all sales required a check to make sure the person who will have a loaded weapon is not a prohibited purchaser who could be dangerous to others? What do you say gun guys? ( standing above the crowd with their video cameras)

At Minnesota state Capitol with Protect Minnesota
Protect Minnesota, Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action supporters
Video by Joan Peterson

It’s time to act.

In the video, you can hear the voices of the gun rights guys speaking loudly about something- not sure what- but they were drowned out by voices for common sense.

We want action. We want all gun sales to have a background check. We want Extreme Risk Protection Orders. There are many more things that can be done to save lives from gunshot injuries due to bullets. What we want now is simple and won’t even do enough. Progress is slow but it is coming. Change is coming. The country wants change as was evidenced by the November elections.

Let’s get to work.

Trump’s Second Amendment “gaffe”

Trump remarks

Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for this meme of the latest remarks by Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. The Brady Campaign is named for James Brady who was shot and seriously injured in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

The question is, were these remarks a gaffe or something else?

A gaffe is when a politician accidentally says what he/she really means instead of couching it in more cautious language. Sometimes gaffes expose good things that someone running for office really means but is afraid to say for fear of some sort of consequence for telling the truth. Sometimes gaffes expose the true nature of a politician’s mind and thought process. From Merriam Webster:

  1. a social or diplomatic blunder

  2. a noticeable mistake

I guess you could call all of the amazingly crude, offensive and ludicrous things Donald Trump says gaffes. They are certainly noticeable mistakes. Were they innocent mistakes or were they intentional? For sure they are blunders and they are happening on a daily basis.

But really, the country is coming to know Trump as someone who is what he says and means what he says and it’s not a pretty picture. Some thought he could overcome his own personality and seem more Presidential. I never thought that. There is nothing Presidential about a man who says what Trump said yesterday.

Sigh.

And so when Trump went off script, or should we say actually stayed on his own script which is basically to say anything that comes to mind, about the second amendment last night, we heard something we’ve never heard before. We heard a Presidential candidate actually suggest that once Hillary was elected those “second amendment” people would just have to do something about her appointing judges who would overturn the second amendment.

He did say that and he meant it no matter what his surrogates are saying. We know what it meant. He was not asking “second amendment” voters to get involved in the election and be active in getting Trump himself elected. That is not what he meant because his words indicated doing something about judges after Hillary is elected.

This was a dangerous moment in our nation’s history. Common sense tells us that Trump is woefully and dangerously unprepared to become the leader of the free world. The fact that he is now the “titular” head of the Republican Party should be an embarrassment and travesty to the party leaders. But they still sit back, hoping against hope that Trump will stop being Trump and act like a normal candidate for President.

Trump claims to be outside of the mainstream and an unusual candidate. That’s for sure. Do his supporters actually believe that someone who knows virtually nothing about running a country should get the job? And do they also believe that what Trump said was just a joke and the rest of us should pretend we didn’t hear the words that came out of his mouth? They heard them. Are they giving him a pass even on this remark?

How far will this go before there is a nut job who takes what he says seriously enough to act on his words? This dangerous and insurrectionist talk is fomenting anger and fear amongst Trump supporters. We should all be afraid of the consequences.

What this election has done is bring the issue of guns and gun rights front and center. Hillary Clinton has asked for strengthening our gun laws so that so many people won’t get shot. That seems like a sensible goal and would be in any other country. But in America we have a group of right wing gun extremists who have taken the second amendment out of context and turned it in to some interpretation that just doesn’t fit with what’s happening in real life. The worst of this is that they have gotten away with their fear mongering and hate talk for far too long.

Not any more. This kind of interpretation of the second amendment, long held by the NRA leaders and lobbyists and the corporate gun lobby is now being challenged by more people who see that the “emperor has no clothes”. The curtain has been pulled aside on Oz and we see this small group of lobbyists and extremists and the leaders who refuse to debunk their myths, for who they are.

If we continue to have incidents like the ones I write about on this blog and will highlight just a few of here, we will see that our world of guns and gun violence is taking an increasing toll on too many citizens. We are also seeing that more guns are leading to more dangerous incidents with guns. How could it not? Guns are designed to kill people. Too many gun owners have cavalier attitudes about guns because…rights.

With rights come responsibilities.

What was the responsibility of this Indiana prosecutor who should have known better when he decided to carry his loaded gun in his pocket?

What was the responsibility of this Florida police officer whose gun still had a bullet in the chamber and ended up killing an innocent citizen who was volunteering to become a citizen patrol member? How was it that someone so experienced with guns made this mistake?

Was this Minnesota gun guy a responsible gun owner when he threatened a cable worker with his shotgun? I think not.

I didn’t make these up. These incidents happen every day and are not myths. This is what we need to be talking about instead of insinuations that “second amendment people”, whoever they are, should get involved in a solution to Hillary Clinton appointing judges who will allegedly abolish the second amendment.

This is the problem with our gun culture. It isn’t what the second amendment extremists claim it is. It is something else. Every day we see the consequences.

And in this great article, Evan Osnos writes in the New Yorker about why Trump’s comments about the second amendment matter to gun owners:

Many gun owners I know, especially those who are most passionate about defending the Second Amendment, take pride in reminding others that they are law-abiding. They are responsible for their conduct and for the safe handling and storage of a firearm; they try not to lose their tempers, and to argue their ideas with facts and civility. Trump, in this sense, is harming them; by suggesting that, to use his phrase, “Second Amendment people” would turn to violence because their favored candidate loses an election is an insult to gun owners everywhere. By feeding a caricature, Trump is effectively advancing the case of those who would seek to curtail access to guns. Truly protecting the Second Amendment means identifying those who are misusing it for their own political purposes.

If anyone thinks those  law abiding gun owners who want the right to own guns for self protection and hunting/recreation believe that those guns should be used the way Trump is suggesting, they are wrong. Most gun owners are safe with their guns but those same gun owners need to get involved and tell the corporate gun lobby and candidates like Trump to stop giving them all a bad name.

In fact, most gun owners want what I want. So do the vast majority of Americans who support sensible gun laws and a sensible gun culture where women are not being shot by their partners in domestic shootings, where children are not shooting themselves and others in “accidental” gun dischargers, where people of color, gay Americans, Sikhs, small children, college students, children at a Jewish day care center, military members, and others are not victims of hate crimes and mass shootings.

Trump’s remarks left an opening for an interpretation of calling for a political assassination.Political assassinations happen, it seems, more frequently in other countries but we have had our share of successful and unsuccessful attempts to change our government through violent means. Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and others. The list is long.

What we don’t need is the anger and violent talk fomented by one of our Presidential candidates to end in another American tragedy.

This is serious business and our next leader needs to be a serious person who knows how to speak publicly without others having to interpret the true meaning of the words. World leaders are watching this wondering what we have become. A few careless and thoughtless words could change the trajectory of world peace. Dangerous remarks made about violence could end in violence.

To say this is unsettling is an under statement. No matter what Trump’s surrogates say about this, they will not convince most voters that this was a joke. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I am not only offended, I am frightened by the rhetoric spewing from the mouth of someone who, if elected our next President, would make us all less safe.

Where is common sense? We are better than this. And we’ve had #Enough of the violent and fear mongering rhetoric. We’ve had #Enough of actual gun violence that takes the lives of 90 Americans a day.

This election is a pivotal time for changing the conversation about guns and gun violence. Hillary Clinton has not said and could not succeed in abolishing  the second amendment. This is hyped up fear talk and it needs to stop. All Hillary wants is to stop some of the shootings. There is nothing more nefarious than that. Any other meaning ascribed to her words is a lie. The linked article states that Trump’s remarks were open to interpretation. Wars and international misunderstandings have resulted when a leader’s remarks were misinterpreted. 

The bottom line is that no candidate for President should be allowed to get away with this kind of talk. If Trump can’t speak without issuing threats or needing to have  his remarks interpreted by his surrogates to cover his ass, then the Republican party needs to seriously think about what their own positions are and reflect on whether this is the man they want representing them.

I leave my readers with these wise and cogent remarks from someone who should know what it means to be targeted as a politician- and lived to tell her story and advocate for reasonable gun laws- former Representative Gabriel Giffords:

“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence,” the statement reads. “Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed.”

 

 

 

Duped by the gun lobby

Tnotrocketsciencehis is not rocket science. Stronger gun laws will save lives. There is actually proof that weak laws contribute to more gun deaths and injuries and the proliferation of firearms in America have not saved lives. Americans have been duped by the corporate gun lobby. Slight of hand tactics and slogans have confused the reality and managed to win support from elected leaders and some of the public. As a result, gun deaths have continued unabated and in some places now contribute to more deaths than auto accidents.

And all for profits and power.

This week-end, my husband and I went to see Merchants of Doubt at a local theater. It was very well done and powerful. Most people do understand that the big corporations and businesses are all about profit and keeping their political power in order to make more profits. Anything goes for some of them. The movie is about climate change and those who deny its’ existence but in order to get to that talking point, examples were given of the tobacco industry and energy companies tactics to deny the facts. From this review of the movie:

His phrasing—scientific, precise, and bloodless—perfectly illustrates Merchants Of Doubt’s central thesis. As science historian Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the book the film is based on, says, “If this is not a scientific debate, what kind of debate is it?” The answer, of course, is a political debate. And political debates are won by rhetoric and tribalism. The most illuminating passages in Merchants Of Doubt are those which illuminate the role of tribal identity in not only the global warming debate but also the rise of the Tea Party. As Skeptic magazine editor and lifelong libertarian Michael Shermer discovered when, after long doubting that global warming was real, his opinion was changed by a close examination of the overwhelming scientific evidence. When documentarians follow him to a libertarian convention where he debates a climate change skeptic, audience members attack him as with phrases like “That’s what YOUR TEAM wants us to think!”  (…) The problem with this kind of issue documentary is that it seems like preaching to the choir. No one who views their identity as a conservative in good standing is going to voluntarily watch this film, and if they’re exposed to it, they’ll just call it more lies. Indeed, the documentarians’ methodology of following the money and questioning the neutrality of so-called impartial observers naturally leads to the question, “Who’s paying for this?” Just because I agree with it—and I do, wholeheartedly—doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask hard questions of it. Merchants Of Doubt’s thesis is that slick communicators willing to use any tactics available, regardless of morality, are the ones who can win political debates. The slickness and clarity of the production means the filmmakers have taken that lesson to heart.

The movie was not about gun violence prevention or the debate about gun rights but it could have been. Some of the scientists and writers who were interviewed for the movie talked of the backlash, the harsh criticisms, the threatening comments, e-mails and phone calls they received from those on the other “team” who absolutely would not listen to anything but their own echo chamber. Even when presented with facts, if the opposition team is noisy and clever enough and has enough money to employ stealth tactics to deceive the public, big issues of our times don’t get addressed and solved; or they are solved too late for too many.

The thing is, lives depend on our getting this right. Lives depend on believing the facts and the evidence even if it means lower profits and less power for corporations and the wealthy. Lives have been saved because the truth about the risks of smoking and second hand smoke finally won out over the powerful tobacco companies. Law suits helped. The same is true for safety measures on cars and drunk driving laws. It took years of fighting against a powerful and well funded industry and some law suits.

Thus we are now at a pivotal moment for climate change. The evidence shows that if we don’t change what we are doing with energy, with water conservation, with greenhouse gases, with fuel and electrical usage, with our daily living habits, the earth will not be the same for our children and grandchildren. But the voices of denial inexplicably win the battles. They won’t win the war but it might not matter. And why does this happen? Ideology. Fear. Anger. Ignorance. Hatred for the other “team.” Loss of profits and power.

All of this can be applied to the battle over gun rights and gun safety reform. For it is a battle. It is fierce and it gets down to which team you are on. And we are at a pivotal point as gun death rates stay the same or rise. Does it matter that lives are being lost every day to firearms injuries many of which could be saved? Just like with the auto and tobacco industries, denial and outright deception too often win. Solutions are right in front of us and make so much common sense but politics stop us from saving lives.

It doesn’t work this way, at least about guns and gun rights, in other countries. Why? Common sense. Morality. Interest in public health and safety. Concern for the common good. No second amendment. No gun rights extremists. Fewer gun owners. No NRA or corporate gun lobby.

Speaking of the corporate gun lobby, the NRA convention held this past week-end in Nashville, is over. It was the usual fare only some of the rhetoric was more strident than ever. Hatred of President Obama is now turning to hatred of the now declared Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If we think the evil and repugnant rhetoric and hatred towards President Obama was over the top, wait until the women hating, Clinton hating folks get started. It should be interesting. And the NRA will be right in the midst of the battle as evidenced by their own Wayne LaPierre’s speech at the convention.

After warning once again that Obama is going to turn America into a country that “you and I won’t recognize” (*yawn*), LaPierre switched gears towards attacking Hillary Clinton. When LaPierre suggests Clinton may be elected president, the crowd loudly boos and one person screams “Never!” LaPierre grimaces at the thought:

“I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”

“Demographically symbolic”? LaPierre just stood before tens of thousands of people and accused the president of being a token black guy. Following this logic, Hillary would be the token woman. LaPierre makes it obvious that what he wants is a return to less diverse times. The overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male crowd seems to agree, interrupting LaPierre’s speech with enthusiastic cheers.

LaPierre’s remarks are the latest bold attempt by the conservative movement to reject Obama and Clinton based solely on the fact that they are members of minority groups (in Clinton’s case, not in number of women, but in their disenfranchisement) and therefore don’t constitute a true representation of what right-wingers believes a president looks like: white, male, and donning an American flag on their lapel.

Just read this over-the-top rhetoric from gun rights extremists at the NRA convention if you don’t believe me. Sounds like the world is about to come to an end. From the linked article:

“They think that they’re better and smarter than we are, as if they’re more sophisticated and intellectually evolved than we are,” Porter said.

“When it comes to those elitists, looking down their noses and telling us how to live, it’s time they got the message loud and clear,” he said. “You elitists live however your want, but when it comes to us, get your hands off our freedom and leave us the hell alone.”

Uff da. Sounds like fighting words. Either that or total nonsense. I’ll go with the latter. Can these folks be serious? Elitists? Who are elitists? I suppose we don’t need to remind them of the huge salaries of the top executives of NRA leaders. And don’t get me started about the “intellectually evolved” statement. Do these folks really believe their own words?

Disturbing to say the least.

Here is more insight into the angry and fear mongering words at the convention.

Some reporters got in to the convention and have written about what they saw and heard. This one is a pretty good summary.

The thing is, facts matter. The claims made by the corporate gun lobby, many of the candidates for the Republican nomination who spoke at the NRA convention and the gun rights extremists who believe what they are told without checking for accuracy, are false. There is a truth out there in the real world. In the real world people in the U.S. are dying at a high rate- at an epidemic rate in fact. This article from the Washington Post fact checked the claims that America has a higher gun death rate than most other “civilized” countries.  From the article:

Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher concluded, “The U.S. gun murder rate isabout 20 times the average for all other countries on this chart. That means that Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than is someone from another developed country.”

A related fact-check from PolitiFact examined a 2011 study by researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health and UCLA School of Public Health. Their findings, while based on data for 23 high-income, populous countries from the World Health Organization now almost a decade old (2003), mirror more recent trends.

The United States, they found, has more firearms per capita, the most permissive gun control laws and a disproportionate amount of firearm-related deaths from homicides, suicides and accidents.

“The United States had a homicide rate 6.9 times higher than those in the other high-income countries, driven by a firearm homicide rate that was 19.5 times higher than those in the other high-income countries,” the report says. “For 15 year olds to 24 year olds, the firearm homicide rate in the United States was 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.”

This is stunning. Of course, it’s been stunning for many years now but we continue along this path without taking action to change it. If we want to know why, we can refer back to what has just happened at the NRA convention in Nashville. There they continued with the push for more guns for everyone everywhere because, of course, more guns make us all safer. The article I have linked is based on studies and collections of data that show the exact opposite. What’s the problem here?

Profits. The gun industry is a large industry and needs to profit, like other industries. So back to where I started. One team wants to save lives and prevent gun violence that is so devastating to so many all over America. The other team wants what they think they have always had and deserve and facts don’t matter. If they had not been duped, they would realize that a simple thing like background checks on all gun sales would actually strengthen the second amendment. If that wasn’t the case, why did the leaders and organizers of the NRA convention insist that any firearms purchased on the convention floor be sent to the closest licensed dealer so the buyer could go through a background check?

To avoid reality and the facts about gun deaths, the gun lobby has their slick talking points that don’t get questioned as often as they should. If they were, we would find that they are not based on facts. Does it matter? When you are playing for the gun rights team, slick talking points replace a serious conversation based on facts. Here are just a few of those talking points:

  • Just enforce the laws already on the books-meant to distract from the fact that gun laws have actually been weakened and it’s difficult to enforce trafficking laws when one state makes it easy for felons and domestic abusers to bring guns into a state where it’s harder. The number 20,000 existing gun laws is thrown around. If we check with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence which researches gun laws, we can see that that really can’t be true. I also was directed recently to a fact check article about this number, 20,000, that is used by gun extremists. Check it out for yourself and you will see that the number cannot be verified. So don’t be duped.
  • More guns make mean less crime. This is a much used phrase that is not based on fact. An old discredited study by gun rights activist John Lott has been used to get conceal carry laws passed all over America. Don’t be duped.
  • Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. This, of course, is simply not true and can’t be proved but it’s out there as some sort of “fact” that needs to be challenged. It’s a myth. Check it out from the link. Don’t be duped.
  • If we pass reasonable gun laws, only criminals will get guns and law abiding citizens will be punished. This one begs credulity because requiring background checks on all gun sales, for example, will stop the “bad guys” from getting guns without stopping any law abiding citizen from getting a gun. If this were true, why did those who ordered a gun from one of the displays at the NRA convention have to get a background check at the nearest licensed dealer to their home? Because they were following state and federal laws. Hmmmm. If only the laws required this for every gun sale.
  • Universal background checks will lead to gun registration. No, not true. In the 20 years of the Brady law’s existence, this has not happened and it won’t.
  • Guns make us safer. Another myth. If guns stopped gun violence and made us safer, why do we continue to have the highest rate of gun deaths per capita in the civilized world?

There are more but I think my point has been made.

America, we’ve been duped. Let’s stop the game playing. There should be only one team here because there is only one right answer- preventing death and saving lives through common sense laws and gun safety reform. Gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.